A patent is an intellectual property (IP) right for a technical invention. It allows you to prevent others from using your invention for commercial purposes for a certain period of time (generally up to 20 years).[1]

In principle, the patent owner has the exclusive right to prevent or stop others from commercially exploiting the patented invention. In other words, patent protection means that the invention cannot be commercially made, used, distributed, imported or sold by others without the patent owner's consent.[2]

What Can Be Patented

The three requirements for patentability[3]
Your invention can be protected by patent if it meets the following requirements:

  • The invention is new: Your invention must not from part of the state of the art (also known as prior art). The state of the art means all knowledge that has been made publicly available anywhere in the world prior to applying for a patent. This includes printed and online publications, as well as public lectures and exhibitions. As a rule, anything you yourself make known about your invention is considered prior art – and your invention is no longer considered new. Therefore, before applying for a patent, make sure you keep your invention a secret.
  • The invention is inventive: The invention must not be obvious to a person skilled in the art. In patent law, a "person skilled in the art" is a hypothetical person who knows the prior art in his specialist field but is unimaginative. If you show the purpose of your invention to a person skilled in the art and he readily comes up with the same solution as you, then your solution is not inventive.
  • The invention is industrially applicable: The invention must be industrially applicable and practicable, and it must be possible to replicate its implementation.

A perpetual motion machine – a machine that constantly performs work without an energy source – is, for example, not patentable because it is not feasible and therefore can't be used commercially.


  1. Definition: What is a Patent? IGE
  2. What protection does a patent offer? WIPO
  3. What are the requirements for patentability? Swiss Federal Institute of IP