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In many countries, patents can be obtained for technical innovations, including innovations in the areas of chemistry and life sciences. Patents can protect physical matter in any form or on any scope such as devices, pharmaceutical or nutritional compositions, particles, molecules, such as DNA sequences, proteins, bioactive principles, and so forth.


Patents can also protect activities, such as methods of manufacturing, methods of processing, the use of compounds for a technical effect, screening methods, and so forth.

Therefore, Patents represent the most efficient way of preventing others from profiting from your innovations.

On the other hand, intellectuall property rights such as patents have many important limits. These limits include:


  • Limits in time - the patent protection starts from the date of filing a patent application and ends 20 years later, an optional priority year not counted. Apart few exceptions, everyone is then free to use the patented technology.
  • Limits in space – a patent is valid only in the country for which it was granted (principle of territoriality).
  • Limits in protection scope – a patent confers a monopoly only for the limited matter defined in the claims, for which a national (or regional) patent office accepted to grant a patent.


Concerning the limits in space, it is important to keep in mind that the different patent offices of the different countries do not apply exactly the same criteria when deciding whether or not to accept a patent.


A prominent example is the requirement of novelty: In most countries, you have lost your right to a patent if you have disclosed your innovation or discovery (for example a new activity of a known compound) to the public before having filed a first patent application. In the US, however, one may still obtain a patent thanks to the one year grace period. Also other countries know grace periods, such as Japan and Canada.


Schneiter & Vuille are happy to provide further information concerning your specific situation upon request.


Intellectual property