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Civil Engineering Research Guide

All about Patents

What is a patent?

  • Through a patent, a government gives an inventor exclusive rights over a technology. Because of a patent, an inventor has the right to stop others from making, using, or selling the invention.
  • The patent owner has a monopoly for 20 years in the country in which the patent was issued
  • Most countries have their own patent offices. A patent in Canada, for example, only protects the invention within Canada. If you want protection in more than one country, you must file your patent separately in different countries. There is no such thing as a world-wide patent.


Image of a Canadian patent summary for an easy riding bicycle.

There are Three Types of Patents

1. Utility Patents: The most common type of patent that involves a technology or device.

2. Design Patents: A patent for the design -- for the look and feel of a technology.

3. Plant Patents: For plants -- for example, for a type of tomato or rose hybrid.



What is Patentable?

In order to qualify for a patent, inventions must meet four criteria:

1. The invention must be unique and new and never before made public in any way, anywhere, before the date of the filed application.

2. The invention must not be obvious to someone skilled in the particular field.

3. The invention must be useful - have a useful purpose.

4. You must give full disclosure of the invention and how it works.


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Why Search the Patent Literature?

Why Search the patent literature?

  • 85-90% of technical information disclosed in patents does not appear anywhere else
  • Look at patent information to find out how something works - to view diagrams and to read detailed descriptions
  • Search the patent literature to make sure an area of research you are working on has not already been done -- avoid duplication


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