What Is A Patent?

A patent is a document, issued by the federal government, that grants to its owner a legally enforceable right to exclude others from practicing the invention described and claimed in the document. The government allows this right, for a term ending twenty years from the date of filing of an application for patent, to encourage the public disclosure of technical advances and as an incentive for investing in their commercialization. Thus, the overall progress of technical innovation is favored, while at the same time inventors are rewarded for their specific contributions. Like other forms of property, the rights symbolized by a patent can be inherited, sold, rented, mortgaged and even taxed. When a patent expires, or is held invalid, the right to exclude the others ceases. The public is the ultimate beneficiary of the technical advance.

Patents are about functional and technical aspects of products and processes. Most patents are for incremental improvements in known technology - evolution rather than revolution. The technology does not have to be complex.

Specific conditions must be fulfilled to get a patent. Major ones are that the invention must be new. The invention must not form part of the "state of the art". The state of the art is everything that has been made available to the public before the date of applying for the patent. This includes published documents and articles, but can also include use, display, spoken description, or any other way in which information is made available to the public.

Patent rights are territorial; a Costa Rican patent does not give rights outside of Costa Rica. Patent rights last for up to 20 years in Costa Rica. Some patents, such as those for medicinal products, may be eligible for a further 5 years protection with a Supplementary Protection Certificate.