The Ethical and Legal Implications of Information Systems


Patents are another important form of intellectual property protection. A patent creates protection for someone who invents a new product or process. The definition of invention is quite broad and covers many different fields. Here are some examples of items receiving patents:

  • circuit designs in semiconductors;
  • prescription drug formulas;
  • firearms;
  • locks;
  • plumbing;
  • engines;
  • coating processes; and
  • business processes.

Once a patent is granted it provides the inventor with protection from others infringing on his or her patent. A patent holder has the right to "exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling the invention throughout the United States or importing the invention into the United States for a limited time in exchange for public disclosure of the invention when the patent is granted".

As with copyright, patent protection lasts for a limited period of time before the invention or process enters the public domain. In the US, a patent lasts twenty years. This is why generic drugs are available to replace brand-name drugs after twenty years.