Improved Patent Information Disclosure and Access for Incremental Innovation
Chapter 1: Introduction: context and importance of patent information for development
A patent is a legal document that confers a set of exclusive rights for the use and exploitation of an invention in exchange for its public disclosure. These rights are issued by a governing authority to grant particular privileges and specific rights to their holders. Hence, patents might be perceived as an impediment to development since they are intended to prevent others from using technologies encompassed in patent documents. Focusing too much on those exclusive rights, the literature has quite often overlooked other aspects of patents. Indeed, though historically patents used to be issued under governmental seal, patents are, in essence, open to public inspection. In this respect patents were termed ‘litterae patentes’. Patents are ‘open letters’; they are ‘open to view’. Originating from the Latin patens, the quintessence of patents resides in spreading open, expanding, opening to public inspection, or simply opening to the general public. This book focuses on the ‘open’ function of the patent that is achieved through the disclosure of patent information. The teaching or utilitarian function of patents is enhanced by the fact that patents are territory-limited and are also restricted in time and in scope. Today, due to the evolution from the industrial age to the information age, the disclosed patent information is becoming an ever more crucial force behind the competitiveness of industrial organisations. The commercial value of patent information is increasing, global economic competition is perpetually growing, and it is more and more based on technological leadership.