Patents are the most generalized way for protecting the rights of inventors. A patent is an exclusive right granted by the state for the protection of an invention. The patent grants to its holder the exclusive right to use or exploit the invention and prevent third parties from using it without consent. If the holder does not wish to exploit the patent, the holder has the right to sell or grant the rights to another company to commercialize it under a license.

That is, a patent consists of a right granted to an inventor by a state, allowing the right holder to prevent third parties from commercially exploiting the invention during a limited time period, usually 20 years from the filing date of the patent application.

Patents are the principal juridical instrument used to protect an invention.

The system is based on the theory that the financial benefits derived from the exploitation of a patent and the publication of inventions for their public dissemination and use will promote innovation and increase the technical level of a country’s industry, with obvious benefits for its commerce.

In effect, by granting an exclusive right, a patent is an incentive that offers the inventor recognition for the creative activity and material reimbursement for the commercial invention. These incentives in turn boost innovation, contributing to an increased quality of life. In return for these exclusive rights, the inventor is obliged to disclose the patented invention publicly, so that third parties may benefit from new knowledge and thus contribute to technological development.

Hence, disclosure of the invention constitutes an essential requirement in the patent-granting procedure. The patent system is designed with balance between the interests of inventors and the interests of the society.

It is not true that patents are solely granted for complex physical and chemical products and processes, or only to large companies. In general, patents can be obtained in any technological field, from paperclips to complex pharmaceutical products. There are thousands of patents for day-to-day products such as filters, glass bottles, fabrics, or bicycles.

This exclusivity of the patent right is granted for a limited time period: 20 years from the filing date of the application as long as the rightholder keeps paying the annual maintenance fees. It is only valid in the country where protection was sought (territoriality principle).

The term “patent” also refers to the document issued by the corresponding governmental authority in that area.

In Chile, the Industrial Property Law defines an invention as “any solution to a technical problem originating an industrial related activity”, understood in its most ample interpretation and independent of the economical feasibility of putting it into practice.

The first patent for an invention in Chile was granted on the 5th of October 1840, when the medical doctor Andrés Blest, uncle of the author of the famous novel Martín Rivas, introduced a “method for making Rum in Chile” at Valparaíso.

What is an invention?

What is an invention?

What characterizes an invention is that it is a solution to a technical or functional problem, not an aesthetic or any other kind of problem. An invention can be a product or process, or both.

The technical problem can be old or new, but in order to obtain a patent, the solution must be novel. Simply discovering something that already exists in nature, which we term a discovery, is not an invention. There must be a human activity involved.

An invention is not necessarily complex. Nevertheless, nowadays, with the level of specialization in different areas of knowledge, the majority of inventions are products of research and development (R&D) activities carried out or financed by companies, research centers, or universities, characterized by requiring a set of human, material, and financial resources optimized to achieve a desired result, which can materialize in the form it was originally proposed or another.