Question 1 : What is a Patent?
A patent is an intellectual property right, and is only valid in the country where the application was filed. Patent law varies between countries, and there are many high-profile cases of firms taking others to court for infringement of a patent. One of the most recent ‘patent wars’ in the news is between Apple and Samsung.
A patent is a technical description of an invention, and must present something novel and non-obvious. Documents are often drafted and filed long before they are used in a real project or product, and the application process can be long and time-consuming. A specialist in patent law is consulted to make sure that all risks are covered.
Question 2 : What is the structure of a patent application?
A typical patent will contain
(1) Reference information (authors, dates, numbers…)
(2) an abstract describing the broad outline of the patent (Note that this type of abstract is radically different from that of a typical research article. Here the authors don’t describe context, but go straight into describing the invention)
(3) any relevant figures and diagrams (all labelled and referred to in 5)
(4) A textual description stating the field of application, the background (explaining the need) and a summary stating point by point the details of the invention
(5) A textual explanation of all figures
(6) A detailed description linking the summary and figures as they relate to the claim (Definition of a claim in this context : the part of a patent (or patent application) that defines in technical terms the scope of protection granted by the patent. The claims are extremely important in case of prosecution or litigation.)