Thursday, November 17, 2011

Intellectual Property 103: What are Patents and how are they used in Education?

                Patents refer to a set of elite rights that the government grants to the creator or their assignee for a limited duration in exchange for disclosure of the invention to the public. There is no universal or generalized version of patenting as it the procedure varies from country to country. But a traditional patent application must include one or more claims characterizing the invention which must be new, ‘non-obvious’ and industrially applicable. But business techniques and treatment methodology do not come under the gamut of patent in some countries.
                 The main reason behind ‘patenting’ is to prevent recreation, distribution, usage and marketing of the invention without the permission of the inventor. Patent empowers the inventor to stop the usage of the invention by others for a minimum of twenty years as per World Trade Organization’s Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property rights. But additionally a variety of terms of patent are available.
                   Several forms of patents exist today. Patent for an invention and industrial designs are the most widely used. To distinguish inventions from designs the additional qualification of ‘utility patent’ is granted to inventions in the United States. Biological patents, business method patents, chemical patents and software patents are the various forms of invention patents. Industrial design rights, plant breeders’ rights qualify as design patents.
                     Apart from invention and design patents, there are a several other forms of patents. Land patent is a notable instance in this regard. Printing patent was another example before undergoing metamorphosis to become ‘copyright’. ‘Edupatents’ are the latest addition to this list.
                Edupatents or education patents are the patents that affect education markets. Alleged patent infringement followed by law suits is the current status of edupatents, the classic example being the Blackboard versus Desire2Learn lawsuit.
                Education has emerged as a potential service market. Everyone is looking to invest in the field and reap benefits. The result is online education systems. But the idea of online education system has already been patented by some companies. If education patents are recognized then others using these ideas will have to pay hefty amounts to patent holders. This idea has kicked up the hornet’s nest and the debate continues.
                The future of education patents is dangerously poised. Both sides of the issue have their share of supporters and the clash is viewed as the one between educational institutes and supporting businesses. The only way out is to amiably sort of the issue to aid the symbiotic growth of both the fields.                  

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