please wait
close window

Latest News

Is there a difference between “invention” and “discovery”?

posted by Richard Cahoon at 2012-10-10 16:57:00

I was recently asked to provide an opinion on this difference by some in the European seed industry. For many people, the distinction between these two actions is the difference between a technological innovation that can be proprietary (i.e., a patent) and one that is product of nature that should be part of the public domain. So, is there truly a distinction between discovery and invention. Of course, this distinction depends on the definition of these words. Under US patent law, there is no difference between discovery and invention regarding patentability.

In Europe, patent statutes do contain some differences and discovery may not rise to the level of patentable invention. In the US, an invention may be discovered as long as there has been significant intellectual work that satisfies the patentability criteria of novelty, non-obviousness, and utility. It could be argued that any invention is, at some level, the discovery of some natural phenomenon and that under this definition, everything is a discovery. Those that adhere to the discovery-not patentable doctrine are concerned that discoverers will inappropriately carve private property rights out of what is the public domain. Some even fear that new species could be patented by their discoverers. While this is not possible in the US for eukaryotes, it is with prokaryotes. In the US, and in Europe, if someone discovers a new microbial species, they may patent it if they have purified it from nature, characterized it, and rendered it technologically useful.

posted at: 2012-10-10 16:57:00, last updated: 2014-02-09 16:58:15

If you would like more information, please contact us.