A policy (or policies) behind the patent system is:
1, 2 and 3
- to encourage an inventor to disclose an invention by granting exclusive rights over the invention to the inventor.
- to benefit the public by limiting the scope and term of the exclusive rights granted to an inventor.
- to benefit the public through encouraging innovation by publishing a full disclosure of the technical details of the invention.
Why? Patents are thought to spur innovation by incentivizing the disclosure of what would otherwise be secret: the nature and details of an invention. To compensate an inventor for providing to the public the details of his/her invention, legal protection for the described invention for a limited time period (typically 20-years) is granted, potentially enabling them to profit from the marketing of the invention. Further innovation carried out by others is facilitated by being able to learn from and build upon the described invention. However, there is no guarantee that an inventor will be able to market his/her invention, as the rights given are not a true monopoly, but an exclusionary right. His/her invention may be dominated by other patents, or in fact may not be commercially viable for any number of reasons. Most patents are never licensed or practiced.