Inventors are often reluctant to disclose all of the technical details of their inventions in patent applications. They fear that disclosing such details makes it easy for copycats to steal their ideas.
Although this is understandable, it goes against the idea of patent protection. Disclosing inventions helps society as a whole to broaden the state of the art and stimulate innovation. In exchange for disclosing their inventions, a granted patent gives inventors the right to exclude competitors from manufacturing, using, selling, offering for sale, importing or exporting their patented inventions for a limited term.
In order to obtain a valid patent, it is therefore required by law that a patent application describes the invention in an "enabling manner". This requires a sufficiently detailed description of any feature that is essential for carrying out the invention to render it apparent to the skilled person how to put the invention into practice. Technical details that are well known should not be described.
In practice, a single exemplary way of carrying out the invention may suffice. However, in order to broaden the protection given by the patent, it is better that the description gives several examples or describes alternative embodiments or variations that extend over the protected area.
Therefore, although omitting technical details in patent applications is a tempting strategy, inventors should be aware that whether the invention is disclosed in an enabling manner is thoroughly examined by patent offices globally. Even after a patent has been granted, a non-sufficient disclosure is a ground for revoking it.
For further information on this topic please contact Michaël Moreels at GEVERS by telephone (+32 2 715 3711) or email ([email protected]). The GEVERS website can be accessed at www.gevers.eu.