AOP Community Resources

Patents 101

Mark Twain once wrote, “I knew that a country without a patent office and good patent laws was just a crab, and couldn’t travel any way but sideways or backways.”  Patents protect the creations of modern inventors, allowing them the freedom to continue inventing without concern about the safety of their concepts.  On the other hand, patents help other inventors to better understand the current state of innovation in their field, driving them to innovate further.

The heart of a patent is the technical description of the technology in question.  By clearly defining the invention, the patent identifies the unique technical elements that make the invention truly innovative.  It also clarifies the aspects that need to be protected.  In an AOP Study, the Study patent holds most of the clues about where and how to search.

What is a Patent?

Each patent contains a technical description which is confirmed by a patent examiner to be both non-obvious and novel.

Prior Art

The (EPO) defines prior art as, “any evidence that your invention is already known. It is enough that someone, somewhere, sometime previously has described or shown or made something that contains a use of technology that is very similar to your invention.”


When an inventor is interested in protecting their invention through the use of a patent, they are required to file a patent application to the patent office of their jurisdiction.  The application includes a description of the technology and related information to support the patent. 

Patent Dates

Each patent has a number of dates that can impact a patent’s role in a Study. For the Study patent, the dates dictate the timeframe of the Study and the range of dates that are available as prior art. For a submission, the dates determine whether the patent is eligible to be submitted.

Patent Claims

Claims are the structured description of the unique elements of a patented technology. Thus, the claims of a patent, rather than the description, serve the practical purpose of defining the elements that are protected.