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a branch of capitalist law whose rules define the system for protecting the rights to technical concepts (inventions) through the issuance of patents.
The economic necessity of making patent law an independent part of existing law results from capitalist production relationships. Hence, the inception of patent law virtually coincides with the development of capitalism, which began, for example, in the early 17th century in Great Britain, the late 18th century in the United States and France, and the second half of the 19th century in Russia. By granting the patent holder the legal right to a monopoly on an invention, patent law affords him the opportunity to compensate for increased expenditures related to implementation of a technological innovation and to receive a normal, and under favorable conditions, an increased, return on invested capital.
Patent law basically consists of a set of rules that define the rights assigned to the patentee, the ways in which these rights may be ceded in part or in full, and the consequences of violations of these rights. Patent law also establishes the procedure for assigning rights to inventions and issuing patents. It regulates the manner of filing an application for a patent, that is, the set of documents that are drawn up in accordance with legal requirements. The full application usually contains a request for issuance of the patent, a description of the invention, and technical drawings and specifications. These documents are submitted to a patent office, a special state agency that is authorized to certify the proposal as an invention.
Different countries have different systems for reviewing applications. The two traditional varieties are the registration and examination systems. Under the registration system the patent office checks only whether the application meets formal requirements and, in the absence of violations, issues the patent. Tests of whether an invention actually merits a patent are made through the courts, where interested parties may bring suit for revocation of any patent that has been issued. Under the examination system the patent office also checks whether the proposed invention or discovery meets the substantive requirements established by law for inventions. Under this system a patent may also be disputed in court. The system of deferred examination is becoming increasingly common. Under this system only the observance of application requirements is checked in the first stage. On the basis of this check, rights to the invention are provisionally granted for a certain period. During this period a petition for expert examination of the inventor’s claims must be submitted. If no such petition is submitted or if the examination yields a negative result, the proposed invention is considered not patentable. Unconditional and complete protection is conferred only on the basis of a patent, which is issued by the patent office after the claims as to invention or discovery have been verified.
Patent law also provides for the resolution of disputes over the issuance of a patent. Such disputes are reviewed initially by the patent office itself, but they are usually resolved either in a regular court or in a special patent court. Disputes related to infringement of patents are also heard in court. Patent law defines the functions and procedures of the agencies that certify claims and review disputes. It usually originates in the form of special laws passed by the highest legislative bodies. Adiministrative ordinances (such as ordinances governing procedures for expert examinations) issued by invention departments are also important sources of patent law, as are court decisions.
In the age of imperialism, signs of crisis are evident in the patent law of the capitalist countries. The crisis has become particularly acute with the development of the scientific and technological revolution, in which qualitative changes have occured in the level of development of productive forces. There has also been a sharp acceleration in the rate of introducing new technical concepts, and in the rate and scale of implementing them. This crisis is evidenced by the sharp increase in the proportion of technical concepts that are not registered as inventions but are protected as industrial secrets, or know-how. Since World War II, certain basic principles of patent law, related primarily to the free, discretionary use by the patentee of the rights belonging to him, have been eroded in the interests of state-monopoly capital. Some categories of inventions may now belong only to the state, compulsory transference of rights to inventions and compulsory licenses are becoming widespread, and the practice of preserving the confidentiality of applications is being restricted. In a number of cases firms have used patent law to get around antitrust legislation by preventing competitors from introducing technological innovations. International agreements to protect industrial property are exercising a growing influence on national patent law.
In the socialist countries the protection of inventions is accomplished by the law of invention.
REFERENCEPatentovedenie. Moscow, 1967.
V. A. DOZORTSEV