What motivation do investors have for risking their money on a product which can be copied once it has been launched? What factor leads them to disclose their results instead of keeping them secret? There is only one answer, and that is the possibility to own an asset represented by a patent.
Every product which we use in our daily lives is the sum of a series of innovations and improvements which have determined its appearance and how it works. The technology we base our daily lives on is the result of the brilliance of inventors and investment by the inventor or a third party who believed in the idea.
Patents constitute a certificate through which a government grants applicants the rights of exclusivity over the developed invention, authorizing them to prevent third parties using or exploiting their invention in a certain territory without their consent for 20 years. In other words, a patent authorizes the proprietor to prevent others from taking advantage of an invention in a determined geographical area. However, it has no effect in any other country. It is thus clear that a first beneficiary of the patent system is the proprietor of the rights, who acquires a competitive advantage against others who may not make use of the invention.
In addition to its role as a reward for inventors and/or investors, the system also contributes towards promoting technological innovation and technology dissemination. In exchange for the protection obtained, proprietors are required to disclose their invention in such a way that a third party may reproduce it. The information about the invention is published 18 months after the application is filed so as to increase technical knowledge in the world.
Patents favor users of technological knowledge, who obtain up-to-date and full information from the patent documents. In this regard, the more than 100,000 applications which are published annually worldwide represent an enormous opportunity to acquire knowledge, encourage greater creation and innovation and generate new ideas for developing new products and processes that contribute towards increasing common technological knowledge.
The patent system as such is thus based on the principle of a balance between those who contribute to increasing knowledge and who disclose their results, instead of keeping them as trade secrets so as to obtain a right of exclusivity, and those who use the patented information as a source of inspiration to generate new products and procedures.