Alternatives to Patents

Alternatives to Patents

While most innovations are best protected by patents, this is not universally true. In some cases, other regimes may be more or equally appropriate. For example, the outward features of ornamentation, shape and/or pattern may be better protected by industrial design (or design patent in the US). Designs are subject to an application and examination process, but is generally shorter, simpler and less expensive, but with a corresponding reduced scope of protection. However, sometimes, a design is what does the trick. The recent massive award in litigation between Apple and Samsung was based, not on a patent but on a design patent.

Certain inventions, especially those related to software may be protected at least in some aspects, by copyright, which provides an exclusive right to reproduce the copyrighted work.

Plant varieties, whether developed by Mendelian genetics or genetic modification, may be protected by a plant breeders’ variety registration (or plant patent in the US), provided that the plant variety demonstrates stability in. Root stock may be subject to such protection.

Although rarely used in practice to date, many countries provide a mechanism to register semiconductor mask layout designs.

Finally, an invention that has not been disclosed is a trade secret. Without any registration necessary, a trade secret may be maintained indefinitely and continue to provide a commercial advantage to the holder.