What is a patent, and can I get one?

What is a patent, and can I get one?

We’ve all heard the expression “that’s a great idea, you should patent it”. But what does getting a patent entail? And are there things that cannot be patented?

A patent is legal protection for any device, substance, method, or process that is new, inventive, and useful.

To be granted a patent, you’ll need to make sure that your invention is:

  • New – it must be novel.
  • Useful – it can be made or used in an industry.
  • Inventive – it’s different enough to what already exists.
  • A suitable subject matter, known as ‘manner of manufacture’.


Patents are legally enforceable and will give you exclusive rights to your invention for the life of the patent.

There are generally two types of patents – standard and pharmaceutical.

A standard patent provides long-term protection and control over an invention, lasting up to 20 years. 

A pharmaceutical patent can give protection for up to 25 years for pharmaceutical substances. Pharmaceutical patents are longer due to the time needed for research, development, and investment in medical areas.

A patent gives you the right to stop others from manufacturing, using, or selling your invention in Australia without your permission, and it will also allow you to license someone to manufacture your invention on your terms. You can also take legal action against others who are using your invention without permission.

What cannot be patented? 

You cannot patent abstract ideas, artistic creations, mathematical models, or purely mental processes. For example, you cannot patent Einstein’s theory of relativity – E equals MC squared – or Newton’s law of gravity. 

You also cannot patent things that might be “contrary to law” – such as a new process to print counterfeit money – or food that is a new mixture of individual ingredients, for example a new cake recipe. 

Discovering a naturally existing chemical compound cannot be patented, but a new method of using the compound might be.

You cannot patent something that is already publicly known, and if you have been selling the product, using the process in your business, or if you have licensed it, this prior use also disqualifies it from being patentable.

Before applying for a patent, you will need to seek legal advice. Here at GLG Legal, we can help you with every aspect of applying for a patent and helping you grow your business.

Contact our office on (07) 3161 9555 today.

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