IP Glossary

Key terms and concepts for intellectual property. Learn more on Academy by PatSnap.



Fourth Industrial Revolution. This terms refers to an umbrella of emerging technologies that support the merging of or seamless interaction between the physical, digital and biological spheres. It includes technologies such as artificial intelligence, robotics, the internet of things (IoT), biotechnology, 3D printing and nanotechnology, among others.


A patent may be abandoned if fees are not paid, or during the application process for failure to reply to a request or notice from the patent office, within a set time period or if the issue fee has not been paid


An introductory paragraph in a patent that provides a concise summary of the invention


America Invents Act. This act, which came fully into effect in 2013, shifted the rights to a patent in the United States from a first-to-invent (FTI) to a first-inventor-to-file (FITF) system for patent applications filed on or after 16th March 2013, bringing it more in line with other jurisdictions. 

As notes from the Congressional Record from the debate on the America Invents Act explain: "This bill would finalize the shift towards a European-style patent system through changing from a 'first-to-invent' to 'first-to-file' system; establishing a new set of 'prior use' rights; and adopting a third European-style 'post-grant' challenge."

Anti Unfair Competition Law

A law put in place by the government of China which condemns theft of trade secrets, but also outlaws other activities such as bribery.

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Application date

The patent application date is the date upon which the patent office receives a patent application


The assignee is the organization or entity that holds the rights conferred by a patent


A governmental, intergovernmental, or other government-authorized body that is responsible for receiving, examining, issuing, extending or maintaining patents

Backward citation

A citation of an earlier patent in a patent document


Base erosion and profit shifting (BEPS) refers to tax avoidance strategies that steer profits towards no or low-tax areas, using certain inconsistencies in tax rules. 

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C&D Letter

Cease and desist letter.


Computer-aided design. Product mock-ups are often registered at intellectual property offices using CAD software.


Climate Change Mitigation Technologies. Such technologies within patents can be found under the Y section of the CPC, namely Y02, 'Technologies or Applications for Mitigation or Adaption against Climate Change.'


Computer-Implemented Invention. The European Patent Office explains that it covers claims which involve computers, computer networks or other programmable apparatus, whereby at least one feature is realised by means of a program.

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CIP Application

Continuation-In-Part application. This allows an applicant to add subject matter that was not disclosed in the original patent application to a pending filing. However, unlike the continuation application, the CIP application will receive a new priority date.

Civil copyright infringement

Relating to disputes between persons or entities (such as a business), where the remedy sought is a civil claim for infringement of copyright, such as removal of the offending material.


Court of Justice of the European Union


The claims explain the extent, or the scope, of the protection conferred by a patent, or the protection sought in a patent application


National Intellectual Property Adminstration, People's Republic of China. Formerly known as SIPO, CNIPA is responsible for trade marks and geographical indications in addition to its original remit covering patents, utility models and designs. 

Continuation Application

This enables inventors to add new claims to a patent application, provided the original application is pending or has not been abandoned, while maintaining the original priority date


A term used often in association with open source software, it is an agreement that allows a piece of work to be used, modified or redistributed provided that the same conditions apply to the newly created work.


Rights granted to the creator of a concept or idea within literary, musical or other artistic works

Copyright exceptions

A small number of things you can legally do with someone else’s work, without needing the permission of the copyright owner.


Co-operative classification - a classification system for patents, jointly developed by the European Patent Office (EPO) and the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).  The CPC is a more specific and detailed version of the International Patent Classification (IPC) system. See our video for more information on using CPC in search queries.


Community Plant Variety Office. The CPVO is a European Union agency, which manages plant variety rights throughout the Member States.

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Community Plant Variety Right. Is a form of IP protection available on an EU community level. Similar to the US Plant Patent, it allows plant breeders to protect their variety and is granted by the CPVO (Community Plant Variety Office) Find out more

Creative Commons

The Creative Commons organization helps to facilitate the legal public distribution of creative or knowledge-based pieces of work. It offers an alternative to copyright, under which all rights are reserved, with licenses that allow creators to make their work available to the public for limited kinds of uses while preserving their copyright. Find out more

Criminal copyright infringement

An activity that is enabling the distribution or access of stolen or infringed intellectual property. These activities are treated differently by the courts, and include such examples as importing counterfeit goods or setting up a website to distribute pirated material. 


Committee on WIPO Standards.

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Cyber crime

Cyber attacks are crimes in which the computer system of the company is the target. Cyber attacks consist of computer viruses (including worms and Trojan horses), denial of service attacks, and electronic vandalism or sabotage, and can sometimes aim to target or steal intellectual property, such as trade secrets. 

Defensive patent

Refers to the intention of the patent being filed. In this case, the intention of a defensive patent is solely to provide protection against litigation, rather than for commercialization. They are used to prevent competitors patenting the same technology and then using those patents against the operating organization. 

Defensive publication

An IP strategy that involves publicly publishing details of an innovation. Advocated by the USPTO, this strategy means that others cannot obtain a patent on the disclosed invention as it is now considered prior art.

Dependent claim

Patents consist of independent and dependent claims. Independent claims should define all the essential components of an invention as a standalone or a series of standalone statements that describe the invention in its broadest scope. Dependent claims, on the other hand, cannot stand alone. They relate back to a specific referenced independent or another dependent claim and will limit the scope of that original claim. Dependent claims are used to provide additional protection. For example, in the event that an independent claim is invalidated, then the independent claim in association with a dependent claim may not be.

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A full explanation of the invention. It will often include background information on the invention, how it is made, and its intended uses.

Design patent

This is a US right that covers the configuration or shape of an article, or ‘ornamental features.’ Solid lines in the drawings are the claimed features of the shape. Broken lines in the drawings show what the rest of the object might look like. Similar to, but not to be confused with, design rights.

Design Right

A type of Intellectual Property Protection that protects any visual aspects of a product. Primarily used in the EU and EU member countries Not to be confused with the US design patents

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Design thinking

A methodology that can be used for creating product ideas. It consists of five phases, namely: empathize, define, ideate, prototype and test. Empathy in design focuses on approaching a problem from a human centric perspective. The problem is articulated in the define stage. Ideation encourages thinking about the problem in a wholly novel way. A prototype phase is used to decipher how people will react or interact with the proposed solution and thereafter the solution is tested.


Designview is a centralized access point to view the registered design information held by any of the participating National Offices. It is used to check already registered designs in the countries of interest. The Designview data is based on the registers of WIPO and EUIPO, and is useful to analyse market tendencies and competitor activities.

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Dispute Resolution

This process is a method  of solving resolving  disputes between two companies out of court. Examples of different kinds of dispute resolution can be found in our course, "Copyright, trademarks and design rights".

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Divisional application

A divisional patent application (or divisional application) refers to a patent application that contains material from a previous (or parent) patent application. It can occur when the applicant is required to split an application into two or more parts, as the original application is claiming more than one invention.


This is the EPO's bibliographic database of patents from around the world, including abstracts, citations and the simple DOCDB patent family. It covers over 90 countries globally, but does not contain full text or images.

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Digital Rights Management - This is the application of technological control that restricts access to digitally produced content, in order, for example, to protect copyright.


The Defend Trade Secrets Act of 2016 is a federal law that allows the owner of a trade secret to sue in federal court if their secret has been stolen or misappropriated. 

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European Patent Convention. Signed on 5 October 1973, this is the treaty that founded the uniform legal framework for the granting of European patents. This treaty established the European Patent Organization (EPOrg), which itself comprises two bodies, namely the European Patent Office (EPO) and a supervisory body, the Administrative Council.

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European Patent Organization. An intergovernmental organization comprising 38 member states. It was set up on 7 October 1977 as a result of the 1973 European Patent Convention (EPC) signed in Munich. It consists of two bodies, the European Patent Office (EPO) and the Administrative Council.

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European patent with unitary effect. More commonly referred to as Unitary Patent.

Essentially biological process

This relates to Rule 26 of the EPC, which restricts patents being file for "essential biological processes". 

These are defined by the EPC as: "a process for the production of plants or animals that costs entirely of natural phenomena such as crossing or selection."

To learn more about biotech exemptions, take our course "What can you patent in biotechnology?" Find out more


The European TRIZ Association. Its mission is "to function as a connecting link between industrial companies, institutions, educational organizations and individuals concerned with conceptual questions pertaining to organization and processing of innovation knowledge." One of their main aims is the "promotion of research and development through the organization of innovation knowledge, by integrating conceptual approaches to classification developed by artificial intelligence (AI) and knowledge management communities."

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The European Telecommunications Standards Institute.

Take our course on IP and standardisation

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The European Union Chamber of Commerce in China, doing business as European Chamber, is a non-profit and non-governmental organisation established to support and represent the interests of companies from the European Union operating in China. 


The European Intellectual Property Office, formerly known as OHIM (the Office for the Harmonization of the Internal Market). It is responsible for managing EU-wide interoperability between procedures, systems, services and tools for EU trademark and design rights. Find out more


File Forming Term - In Japanese patent law, F-term is a system for classifying Japanese patent documents according to the technical features of the inventions described in them. It is not a replacement for the International Patent Classification (IPC) or other patent classifications, but complements other systems by providing a means for searching documents from different viewpoints.


Foreign Direct Investment. Describes when a company or individual from one country invests in a business interest in another. Numerous studies have shown that there is a strong relationship between foreign direct investment data and patent data. One WIPO report, for example, states: "Countries with high level of inward foreign-direct investment receive a large number of non-resident patent filings."


File Index - For use in Japan, the File Index is a subdivision of the IPC, with around 190,000 extra items. It can be required, for example, to classify inventions that pertain very specifically to Japan.

File wrapper

In addition to the patent document itself, there are numerous additional documents that are created during the application process that pertain to the patent, such as documents prepared by the examiner, summaries of interviews or other correspondence. The file wrapper is an electronic folder that contains these supporting documents that may, for example, be called on in the event of any legal dispute.

Filing date

The date when a patent application is first accepted at a patent office


Free, libre, open source software - This relates to software that can be freely copied and used, modified and redistributed. The source code can also be freely modified in order to improve software as part of a collective, pooled community effort.

Forward citation

When a patent is referenced by a subsequent application document


Reasonable and non-discriminatory terms (RAND), also known as fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory terms (FRAND). In patent terms, it relates to the granting or licensing of rights to a specifc technology if it is fundamental to a standard within that technology area (such as, for example, GSM or GPRS). The owner of the protected technology is required to provide access to the intellectual property relating to that technology on a fair and reasonable basis, if a standards organization deems it essential to a specific standard.

Front End Innovation

Refers to the starting point of an innovation project where concepts are explored and developed, but before the formal and structured new product development (NPD) begins. Most often, front end refers to activities prior to gate 3 of the Stage-Gate (TM) process.


As the WIPO describes: “A Freedom to Operate (FTO) analysis invariably begins by searching patent literature for issued or pending patents, and obtaining a legal opinion as to whether a product, process or service may be considered to infringe any patent(s) owned by others.” It may also be called a clearance search or non-infringement search and the search analysis essentially constitutes a risk assessment.

The key distinction between a patentability search and an FTO search is that an FTO search only includes patents. An inventor may have freedom to operate in an area, but this doesn’t mean that he or she can patent there. 

Take our course 'How to do an FTO search' to learn more.


Gross domestic expenditure on research and development 


Get-up generally refers to the overall form in which a product is presented. This typically includes labels and packaging and all visual elements therein. 

In the US, this is referred to as "trade-dress".


German Federal Patent Court


Geographical Indication. An identifier, or mark, used on products to show that they originate from a specific geographical region and that they adhere to a certain standard of production (such as traditional methods), or that they possess characteristics associated with that region.


Goodwill relates to the trust, loyalty and reputation built by a company, its products and its brand. This is hugely significant in trademark or passing off cases. 

Goodwill is considered by some to be an intangible asset and a form of intellectual property protection. 

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German Patent and Trademark Office


This is when an application becomes a granted patent, meaning that the patent is in force

Hague System

Hague Agreement Concerning the International Deposit of Industrial Designs

Similar to the Madrid System, this system administered by WIPO provides a mechanism for registering designs in several countries with one application. 

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Horizon 2020

A seven year (2014 to 2020) EU research and innovation programme providing almost €80 billion funding to promote science and industrial leadership while reducing barriers to innovation.  

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Intellectual Asset Management. A methodology or defined process for protecting and maintaining, or growing the value of a specified body of intellectual properties within an organization.


International Bureau - This refers to the International Bureau of the World Intellectual Property Organization, which can receive international patent applications directly and act as the receiving office (RO), in place of the national or regional office. It is available to any residents of a PCT contracting state.


The International Chamber of Commerce is an organization that advocates international trade and responsible business conduct. It promotes "a global approach to regulation to accelerate inclusive and sustainable growth to the benefit of all."

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The International Centre for Dispute Resolution is the international division of the American Arbitration Association and provides dispute resolution services to businesses.

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Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers - This is the world's largest technical professional organization covering engineering, computing, and technology information. Its goal is to promote innovation in these fields and it has developed a portfolio of around 1,300 standards and projects to facilitate global interoperability of technologies. Find out more

Independent claim

As the EPO desrcibes: "All applications will contain one or more "independent" claims directed to the essential features of the invention." An independent claim therefore, comprises the broadest definition of an invention and is a standalone statement. It may be limited in scope by dependent claims.

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Industrial design

A design process used for products that will be manufactured via mass production methods.


Relating to the use of a patented invention without the permission of the patent owner


Internationally agreed Numbers for the Identification of (bibliographic) Data. An INID code refers to the numbers that appear in brackets on the front page of a patent, for example (54) refers to the title of a patent. The numbers enable identification of the various bibliographic elements of a patent, even if the front page is not in Latin script.

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International Patent Documentation - this refers to a publicly accessible database that is maintained by the EPO and is one system used for identifying patent families.

Inventive Step

Relates to patentability, an invention is considered to have an inventive step if it is not obvious to a person skilled in the art.  Find out more


The five offices known as the IP5 are: the Korean Intellectual Property Office (KIPO), European Patent Office (EPO), Japan Patent Office (JPO), China National Intellectual Property Administration (CNIPA) and United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

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Intellectual Property Assets. Refers to a body of intellectual properties within an organization, including copyright, geographical indications, industrial designs, patents, and trade secrets, that have been identified as holding value to the business.


Intellectual Property Appellate Board. Headquartered in Chennai, the IPAB has the authority to examine issues relating to the revocation of patents in India and the validity of registered trademarks.

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International Patent Classification - established by the Strasbourg Agreement 1971, this represents a series of identification codes that allow patent offices to classify patents and utility models into specifically defined technology areas.


International Preliminary Examining Authority. This refers to any recoginised national patent office or other relevant organization that has been appointed to carry out a preliminary examination as part of an international patent application (see PCT). It will form an initial, non-binding opinion on whether an application describes an invention that is novel, involves an inventive step (to be non-obvious), and is industrially applicable.


Intellectual Property Enterprise Court. In the UK, this specialist court is geared towards rapid decisions in IP litigation cases, used primarily by small and medium-sized businesses. It can award up to £500,000 in damages or lost profits. It is part of the Business and Property Court of the High Court of Justice.

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This is same as IPRP, an international preliminary examination report


The Intellectual Property Office in the UK

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Intellectual Property Office of Singapore Find out more

IPR (Intellectual Property Rights)

A term that includes trade secrets, utility models, patents, trade marks, geographical indications, industrial designs, layout designs of integrated circuits, copyright and related rights, and new varieties of plants.

IPR (Inter partes review)

In the US, this refers to a procedure carried out through the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) and can be used by a third-party to challenge the patentability of one or more claims in a US patent. 

It becomes available only after the period for a challenge via a post grant review (PGR) has passed and is more limited in scope.

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International Preliminary Report on Patentability


International Searching Authority - A body that will search patents and prior art to determine whether an invention is patentable


International Search Report - The report produced by the ISA (International Searching Authority) on whether an invention is patentable


(United States) International Trade Commission.

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Japan Patent Office Find out more


Joint Venture - where businesses agree to share resources or expertise in order to achieve a specific objective

Kind Code

Kind codes are numbers and letters that are added to the end of patent numbers that describe what 'kind' of document is being read. Codes used vary by jurisdiction and a full list is available from the WIPO. Find out more


Korean Intellectual Property Office Find out more


Knowledge transfer office

Locarno Classification

The Locarno Classification, established by the Locarno Agreement (1968), is an international classification used for the purposes of the registration of industrial designs. It comprises a list of terms into which industrial designs are incorporated. These terms to describe goods are called product indications. Find out more


Mergers and acquisitions. Describes a business transaction in which two legal business entities become a single entity. In the case of an acquisition, this generally involves the parent company buying and taking ownership of the stock, equity or assets of the target company. Meanwhile, in a merger, two organizations join together to form a new business.

Madrid System

The Madrid System for the International Registration of Trademarks

Similar to the Hague system, it provides a mechanism to register trademarks in multiple countries with a single application. 

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Markush Structure

This is a common way of depicting chemical structures in patents, named after Dr Eugene A. Markush. They depict a core structure, but allow symbols to be added that describe potential variants that could be attached to the core structure, without having to define the chemical structure of these variants precisely. It makes them ideal for use in patents, where patent writers do not always want to be explicit about all parts of a structure in order to protect their invention.


Maximum Cumulative Royalty (Rate). With regards to standard essential patents, an MCR is an agreed highest royalty rate for licensing all the patents that relate to a specific standard.

For example: If it is agreed that all the standard essential patents relating to a specified standard should be 8% of the sales price of the product, then a vendor that owned 25% of the standard essential patents would receive 25% of the maximum 8% of royalties.


A method of alternative dispute resolution which seeks to resolve intellectual property disputes without the need to go to court. The mediator’s role is not to make a decision on the dispute, but to help both parties reach an amicable solution.

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Medical use claims

Medial use claims are a special type of purpose-limited claim. They are an exception to the normal rules of novelty.

To learn more about medical use claims, take our course: "What can you patent in biotechnology?"

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Metadata summarizes basic information about data, which can make finding and working with particular instances of data easier. For example, the name of the author, the date created and the last date modified as well as file type and file size are examples of very basic document metadata. More information can be found in "How to manage trade secrets".

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An NDA (non-disclosure agreement) is a legally binding contract of confidentiality. NDAs can protect to data, knowledge, material or information from being disclosed. 


Non-governmental organisations 

Examples include the World Economic Forum, the ISO and CBD-COP

NNN Agreement

Used to protect IP in China, this is a 'non-use, non-disclosure, and non-circumvention' agreement. It should be used instead of a US style NDA (non disclosure agreement), as this is not considered sufficient to protect IP in China.

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For a concept to be classified as an invention, it must be completely new with no evidence that it has ever been described before. See also 'Prior Art.'


Non-Practising Entity. Also sometimes known pejoratively as patent trolls, NPEs hold patents for inventions but have no intention of developing or commercializing them.


Non-patent literature. Refers to literature that is relevant to innovation or the patent prosecution procedure, for example to determine novelty. This could include research papers, publications or scientific journals, among others.

Take our course on using NPL for market reports


National Patent Office.


Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development

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Official Gazette. The official journal of the USPTO. There are two editions, one for patents and one for trade marks. It includes bibliographic information and a representative drawing for each patent granted or trade mark published on that issue date. It is published weekly, every Tuesday.

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Office for the Harmonization of the Internal Market. This has now been superseded by the European Intellectual Property Office.


Open Invention Network. A defensive patent pool and community of patent non-aggression which enables freedom of action in Linux. OIN licenses its global patent pool in exchange for a pledge of non-aggression. 

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Ordre Public

Sometimes referred to as "public policy doctrine", this refers to the principles that define or underpin the law in a particular legal system or jurisdiction. 

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When an organization or entity allows another to use its intellectual property in return for a fee. 

Passing off

A type of infringement where a business, its goods or services are misrepresented by the infringer. 

The principle of passing off is that "A man is not to sell his own goods under the pretence that they are the goods of another man" (Perry v Truefitt, 1842). 

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A legal right conferred by a government, or a governing body, to a patent owner that prohibits all others from using a specified invention for commercial purposes without the prior consent of the owner.

Patent cliff

A severe drop in revenue once the patent for a company’s leading product expires. The sharp revenue decline is a result of competitors being able to start developing and selling the product, often at a much lower price. 

Patent family

A patent family refers to a patent that has filed in several jurisdictions in order to protect a single invention in multiple countries. The original document filed is known as the priority document, and it is then extended to other patent offices. This then becomes the patent family.

Patent fence

A series of patents issued with a view to block any innovators linked to an initial patent (usually a competitor) from further developing any innovation or applying for further follow-on patents around the initial one.

Patent pool

An agreement under which one or more patent owners license their patented technology either to each other, or to third parties. It is often used for technologies that consist of multiple complementary aspects and in situations where all parties mutually benefit from sharing the constituent technologies involved.

Patent prosecution

This refers to the process of negotiating with a patent office during the application stages of obtaining a patent, and subsequent interactions or communications with the patent office following its grant.

Patent thicket

The most generally used definition that is put forward by IP expert Carl Shapiro: "A dense web of overlapping intellectual property rights that a company must hack its way through in order to actually commercialize new technology." It applies to areas of technology where it is difficult to enter with an invention due to excessive patenting activity. 


For an invention to be patentable, it must be novel, involve an inventive step and be capable of industrial application. It should not involve any subject matter that is specifically excluded, such as a mathematical model or biological process.

Any public facing information could hinder plans to patent a particular item. This means that patentability searches will include websites, scientific journals, industry publications, and general media, as well as taking into account patents.


Patent Co-operation Treaty - The PCT provides a unified international procedure for filing patents in all the participating jurisdictions around the world. Find out more


Post grant review. Established as part of the America Invents Act (AIA), a third party may challenge a US patent within nine months of issuance, if it has been issued under first-inventor-to-file (FITF). 

It differs from an inter partes review (IPR) as the scope of what can be challenged is wider. It can include subject matter ineligibility, anticipation and obviousness, indefiniteness, lack of enablement, or failure to meet the written description requirement. An inter partes review, on the other hand, is limited to anticipation and obviousness.

As notes from the Congressional Record from the debate on the America Invents Act explain: "This bill would finalize the shift towards a European-style patent system through changing from a ‘‘first-to-invent’’ to ‘‘first-to-file’’ system; establishing a new set of ‘‘prior use’’ rights; and adopting a third European-style ‘‘post-grant’’ challenge."

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Person having ordinary skill in the art.

See: Skilled in the art


A pledged patent is one that has been used as a form of collateral for securing a business loan.


Patent Prosecution Highway. As part of the international PCT application process, this refers to a work sharing initiative between participating patent authorities. It can enable faster processing during the national phase of examination, where patent examiners can make use of the work from the other office or offices.

Preliminary action

The act of initiating an informal action against a possible infringer of the copyright, such as a letter informing the person or business of their infringement.

Prior art

As the European Patent Office explains: "Prior art is any evidence that your invention is already known. Prior art does not need to exist physically or be commercially available. 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."

Prior user right

If a party can prove it was already using an invention before the same invention is patented by another, then it can continue use of the invention without the need for licensing. Find out more

Priority Date

A priority date is achieved when you are the first to file a specific innovation within a country. The filing date is considered the “priority date”. Once filed you are entitled to claim priority for a period of twelve months. Therefore, when you apply for protection in other member countries during those twelve months, the filing date of your first application is considered to have “priority” over other applications filed after that date.


Patent Trial and Appeal Board. Part of the USPTO, this body decides issues of patentability. It conducts trials and hears appeals against examiner decisions in patent applications and re-examination proceedings. 


Patent and Trademark Office.

Publication Date

The date on which a patent application is published and enters the public domain for the first time.


The Quality Brands Protection Committee is a committee in China that facilitates and promotes continuous improvements in administrative and judicial protection for intellectual property.

Rack rate

Rack rate, or program rate, refers to a licensing royalty rate, in which the intellectual property owner enables another party to license either all, or a defined part of a patent portfolio, that relates to a specific product at a set rate. It could be established as a percentage of the gross or net revenues on the sales of any product that makes use of the defined intellectual property. 




Registered Community Design


Research, Design and Development

Registered trade mark - ®

This represents a registered trade mark. The ® symbol can only be used in the countries where you have successfully registered your trade mark with the relevant trade mark register.


Receiving Office - a national patent office or intergovernmental organization which receives and processes international patent applications


Relative Specialization Index. Refers to a formula which is used to measure the comparative strength of a country in a specific research area, taking into account and mitigating the effect of the different sizes of each country. The formula is expressed thus:

RSI = log10 ( (n1/N1)/(ntotal / Ntotal) )

Where: n1 = total country number of patents or publications in the research or technology area; N1 = total global number of patents or publications in the research or technology area; ntotal = total number of patents or publications in the country; Ntotal = total number of patents or publications worldwide.


The State Administrations for Industry and Commerce. In is China's administrative authority in charge of supervision, regulation and law enforcement relating to industry and commerce. 


Sustainable Development Goals. As the UN explains, "The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015, provides a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future. At its heart are the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are an urgent call for action by all countries - developed and developing - in a global partnership." 

The World Intellectual Property Office (WIPO) supports these goals, as Francis Gurry, Director General adds: " The economic imperative at the heart of innovation is fundamental to the process of societal transformation that the Sustainable Development Goals aim to achieve."

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Secondary Infringement

The act of distributing copyrighted work in such away that allows for the illegal consumption of the work in question. In some cases, the person consuming the copyright-protected material may also be liable for infringement.  Find out more


Standard-essential patent - a patent that is considered as essential for the implementation of a specific technology that needs to conform to a uniform standard. Owners of SEPs are obliged to offer the technology to others at a fair and non-discriminatory price.


A Chinese term originally meaning bandit, in today's culture it refers to businesses based on counterfeit, fake or pirated products. 

Silicon Intellectual Property

In the semiconductor industry, this describes a business model in which a semiconductor company licenses its technology, known as 'IP core,' to another party. IP core can refer to technologies such as chip layout design.


State Intellectual Property Office, which was also commonly known as the Chinese Patent Office and which has been superseded by CNIPA.

Skilled in the art

According to WIPO, this refers to a hypothetical person who has a common general knowledge in the art to which the claimed invention pertains.

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Small and medium-sized enterprises. The term is used to distinguish the size of a company, usually, but not always exclusively, based on the number of employees. It is used by many regional and international organizations, such as the EU, the World Bank and the World Trade Organization, among others. However, it is important to note that at a country level, the definitions can vary considerably. Follow the link for more detailed information on country-specific definitions

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Soft IP

A contentious term sometimes used to refer to trademarks, copyright, and domain names, to differentiate from ‘hard IP’, referring to patents.


Supplementary Protection Certificate. Applies to patents in the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. If granted, it extends protection of certain patent rights from the time when the original patent expires, usually for a maximum of five years. It is used for products (pharmaceutical and plant) that require regulatory approval before they can be sold in a market. The SPC compensates for the time during which a patent is granted but the product cannot be sold.


The claims and description of a patent together make up its specification


Standard Setting Organization. An organization that develops, promotes or supports standards in areas such as information and communications technologies, for example WiFi.

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Stage-Gate (TM) Innovation Process

The Stage-Gate (TM) innovation process provides a framework for product development from discovery and ideation through to launch. It describes a sequence of seven activities: discovery, scoping, building a business case, development, testing and validation, launch and post launch review. Between each of these activities there is a sequence of five gates. Gate 1 (between discovery and scoping) is referred to as the idea screen. There is a second screen between scoping and building the business case (Gate 2). Gates 3, 4 and 5 refer to 'Go to development,' 'Go to testing,' and 'Go to launch' respectively. A gate represents a decision point to determine whether a project should continue to the next phase or not. The framework is designed so that theoretically only the strongest ideas with the highest chance of commercial success should make it through each stage.

Standardised Assignee

Standardised assignee is a single naming convention used to describe the same patent owner, across different patent documents. For example, all patent documents with the assignee names “I.B.M, or IBM Inc., or IBM Consulting, or International Business Machines”, are assigned the standardised owner “IBM”.


Science, technology, engineering and mathematics

Substantial Part

Relating to copyright infringement, substantial part is used when deciding the level of which a work was copied or not copied. 

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A patent title should convey to the user of patent documents a first impression of the main content of the invention


The trade mark symbol (™) represents a trade mark that is unregistered. This does not guarantee protection, though some organisations use  to signify a trade mark that is being processed. 

Trade dress

The US equivalent term for get-up.

Trade secret

The WIPO describes a trade secret as 'any confidential business information which provides an enterprise a competitive edge.' Trade secrets encompass manufacturing or industrial secrets and commercial secrets.

Trade secret governance

Trade secret governance is simply about defining the 'rules' for those involved in trade secret asset management within the organization. It is the process of decision-making and the process by which decisions are implemented (or not implemented). Ideally the process should distinguish between strategic and tactical decisions.

Trade Secrets Directive 

The Trade Secrets Directive is a directive in the European Union that standardises laws in member countries that protect against the unlawful acquisition and illegal use of trade secrets. 

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A design, symbol, word, or phrase that is either legally registered or established by use as the representation of a company or product.

Triple damages

In the US, damages awarded in court can be up to three times higher if it is proven that an invention was copied after its protected status had already been known or made known to the person infringing (wilful infringement). 


The Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights. This is an international agreement administered by the World Trade Organization (WTO). It articulates minimum standards for various forms of intellectual property regulation as applied to nationals of other WTO Members. For example, it is the TRIPS Agreement that requires WTO Members to provide protection for a minimum term of 20 years from the filing date of a patent application for any invention.


A Russian acronym: Teoriya Resheniya Izobretatelskikh Zadatch, which translates as 'The theory of inventive problem solving.' It refers to a science-based, rather than a psychology-based approach (such as brainstorming), to innovation. It centres on defining an ideal end state and then analysing the contradictions that prevent a product or solution reaching that end state. Products are the result of compromises based on available resources or materials and the TRIZ methodology provides a framework for resolving the contradictions that lead to these compromises. It was devised by a patent examiner for the Russian Navy, Genrich Altshuller, who had reviewed tens of thousands of patents to try and determine what principles led to an innovative breakthrough, versus an incremental improvement.

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Trademark Trial and Appeal Board. A body within the USPTO that hears and decides on cases involving trademarks, including oppositions (whereby a party opposes a mark following its publication in the Official Gazette ) and annulments (whereby a party seeks to cancel an existing registration).

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Technology Transfer Office - This relates to an office, often within a university or governmental organization and sometimes within companies, that is responsible for identifying commercial partners or applications of a researched technology. Within universities, the office is responsible for the commercialization of innovation as defined by the intellectual property that a university holds.


Unregistered Community Design


Unregistered Design Right

Unitary Patent

Currently under development, the Unitary Patent (or EPUE) will provide patent protection at a European level in all participating jurisdictions.  Unitary patents would be granted by the European Patent Office (EPO) and be subject to the jurisdiction of the Unified Patent Court (UPC). The system will provide an alternative to national patents.

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The Unified Patent Court is a proposed common patent court open for participation of all member states of the European Union. It will hear cases regarding infringement and revocation proceedings of European patents valid in the territories of the participating states. A court ruling will be directly applicable throughout those territories.


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Utility model

Used in select jurisdictions such as Australia, China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and South Korea (among others), the idea of a utility model patent is to cover an incremental improvement to a product, process or machine in those cases where such an improvement does not warrant a full patent.

Venture Capitalist (VC)

Financing providing investor for start-up organizations or small businesses to drive growth.

Wilful infringment

When an invention is copied, or continues to be copied after its protected status is already known or made known to the person who is infringing. This can lead to much higher penalties if brought to court. In the US, damages awarded can be up to three times higher, an outcome that is often referred to as triple damages. 


World Intellectual Property Organization. A self-funded UN agency with 189 member states, it provides a global forum for intellectual property services, policy, information and cooperation. Find out more

WIPO Pearl

A multi-lingual terminology portal giving access to scientific and technical terms derived from patent documents


This most frequently refers to an application that’s open to public inspection, which has been withdrawn at the request of the applicant.


World Trade Organization. A multinational organization that presides over the rules of trade between nations. In terms of intellectual property, it was the WTO’s Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) that introduced rules governing intellectual property into the global trading framework for the first time.

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X Patent

X patent is the term given to the patents that were substantially destroyed at the United States Patent Office as a result of the Great Fire of 1836. Patents that could be recovered are labeled with an 'X' in front of their number (for example: X011280). 


The patent application process involves patent offices creating a search report, which itself will cite other relevant documents, for example in the consideration of prior art. These documents are categorised by the examiner in order to indicate their relevance. Category Y, within the EPO defintion, is applicable where a document is such that a claimed invention cannot be considered to involve an inventive step when the document is combined with one or more other documents of the same category, such combination being obvious to a person skilled in the art.

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Zone of natural expansion

In trade mark law, this is the extent to which a trade mark owner has the potential to expand into new territories or geographical regions. It is a concept that attracts criticism from some courts, as the 'zone' can never be objectively described.