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Which Is Which? Discoveries – Inventions – Patents

A discovery...

is something that already existed at the time of discovery, but had not been identified until then. Nothing changes as a result of the discovery apart from the increase in knowledge that it brings. Discoveries are therefore defined as the first description of a natural law or a law derived from the laws of nature.

An invention...

is something that previously did not exist. However, it can make reference to objects, processes, or ideas that were already known and to which innovations or changes are made, resulting in an impact that constitutes a significant improvement in terms of quantity or quality. There is currently a tendency to only refer to tangible things as inventions to the exclusion of abstract notions. Inventions are creative, innovative achievements that give rise to previously unknown solutions and the application of new techniques. In the case of inventions, natural laws are applied in an unprecedented combination to solve a given problem, whereby the first description or application of the technique itself constitutes an invention. If this is commercially usable, it can be protected by means of a patent or utility model.

According to Section 1 of the German Patent Act, a patentable invention is a commercially exploitable, new, non-obvious method for technical action, i.e., an instruction on the use of controllable natural forces with regard to direct achievement of a causally clear result.

Patents are therefore granted for inventions that are new, relate to an inventive activity, and are commercially exploitable.

A patent...

is a sovereign property right to an invention that grants a right of exclusion for a limited period of time. A patent provides its holder with the right to prevent others from using the patented invention; for example, commercially producing, supplying, or using a protected product, or commercially exploiting a protected procedure.