How long does a Patent last?

Patents are granted to inventors of novel processes and products that meet the criteria of usefulness and industrial applicability. Through registered patents, patent holders are granted several exclusive rights and must follow certain obligations. Patentees gain a commercially exploitable asset upon registering their patent, which fuels the spirit of innovation.

However, it is essential to note that it can only use these exclusive rights granted to patentees for a limited period of time. This period during which patent holders can exploit and use their patents exclusively is called the term of a patent. There was a time when different standards were prevalent for product patents and process patents. While product patents used to be given longer protection of fourteen years, process patents used to be restricted to only five years of protection. However, in 2003, the term granted to product and process patents was the same. 

Term of Patents in India

  • Patents filed under the provisions of the Indian Patent Act- When a patent holder chooses to file and register their patent under the provisions of the Indian Patent Act, 1970, they are granted protection for a term of twenty years. The said term of twenty years is calculated from the date the patentee files the patent application with the Indian Patents Office. 

  • Patents filed under the Patent Cooperation Treaty- The Patent Cooperation Treaty or the PCT is an internationally applicable treaty wherein the contracting nations had willfully agreed to follow a procedure for patent registration, protection, and enforcement, which would be uniform across the contracting states. National and residents of the contracting nations to the PCT can get their patents internationally registered across various nations simultaneously. The term of protection that a patent is granted under the provisions of the Patent Cooperation Treaty is of twenty years as well. Unlike national patent registrations in India, such a term is not calculated from the date of the patent application in the case of international registrations under the PCT. Instead, the term of protection is calculated from the date of priority of that particular patent.

Renewal of Patents:

It is important to note that renewals of patents in India have to be carried out each year or at a single go, whichever a patentee prefers. Such renewal ensures the validity of the patent during the term of protection that it has. Patent renewals are carried out by paying an annual renewal fee or a one-time lumpsum renewal fee. However, unlike for other intellectual property types such as trademarks, patent renewals in India cannot be extended beyond the initial specific term of patent protection. That is, when the 20-year term of protection granted to a patent expires, the patent becomes available for exploitation by the public, and its details become a matter of public knowledge. 

Restoration of Patents:

When patentees fail to pay the renewal fees, their patent registration lapses. In such cases, patentees are granted a six-month extension to pay a certain amount of penalty and have their patent renewed. Non-renewal can lead to the consequence of patented information becoming public domain knowledge. However, restoration is a process wherein the patentee can have his rights restored by applying to the Indian Patent office and suitable justifications for the delay. 

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