Patent FAQs*

Introduction

Structura Biotechnology is a scientific software company that contributes to the field of cryo-electron microscopy (cryoEM) by creating professionally designed and engineered software for academic and industrial use.

Patents and the role they play in commercialization are often misunderstood, despite the fact that commercial activity and scientific academic progress go hand in hand.

What is a patent?

A patent is a time-limited legal right that can be applied for by an innovator in order to commercially protect a specific novel invention, in exchange for fully describing and disclosing the invention, how it works and why it is useful. Without patent protection, companies would be forced to keep innovations secret in order to remain competitive.

Why does Structura apply for patents?

We apply for patents on our inventions in order to ensure commercial viability. Patents allow us to continue our ongoing scientific and engineering projects and provide our software, free of charge, for individual academic use.

Commercialization, supported by patents, has been the driving force for many important scientific technologies, including many within cryoEM. Our belief is that as cryoEM continues to grow, commercial software will also play an important role for segments of the community and industry. Without the leverage and protection of patents, we (or any other rational actor) would be discouraged from taking on the risk and effort of doing this commercialization work. Commercialization does not interfere with academic or scientific progress.

How do Structura’s patents affect academic cryoEM scientists?

In short, our patents do not affect non-commercial scientific activity. This is true for both cryoEM software developers and scientists using cryoEM software.

In many countries, non-commercial scientific use of an invention that is the subject of a patent, is “carved out” by law so that academic research and progress is unaffected by the existence of patents. In addition, Structura does not have any reason or incentive to use its patents to interfere with scientific progress by any academic group. In fact, some academic projects have already reimplemented methods that are covered by patents. The purpose of our patents is simply to protect us from commercial competition.

To ensure that our patents are always used in the way in which we intend, we are taking steps to create an “academic license agreement” that, once implemented, will provide explicit and irrevocable rights to academic developers who wish to non-commercially use or build on methods that are the subject of our patent protection. This will remove any immediate concerns on the part of academic developers as well as potential future concerns in the event of a change in patent ownership.

Other FAQs

How are patents obtained?

A patent must be applied for, within one or more geographic locations. An application can only be filed in respect of an invention that has not already been publicly disclosed.

The patent application must disclose exactly what the claimed invention is and how it works. At a high level, a patent application contains the specification (a clear and complete description of the invention and its usefulness) and the claims, which are written by a patent lawyer and contain a list of legal descriptions that define the boundaries of the protection being sought. The claims must describe the invention fully, so they often start with a broad description of the technical field followed by one or more claims that narrow down the scope of the invention.

A patent application is distinct from a granted patent. Through an extensive examination process, the initial application is scrutinized and revised to ensure that the claimed invention is in fact novel and that the claims cover only the specific novel part of the invention. As such, if the patent is granted, it may be quite different from the application initially filed.

What kinds of inventions are patentable?

A patentable invention is a product or process that provides a new way of doing something or offers a technical solution to a problem. The invention can be a product, a composition, a machine, a process, or an improvement on any of these. Combinations of existing inventions are also patentable, as are computational algorithms that produce an improvement in a specific technology domain, like cryoEM.

What does a patent cover?

Patents are limited in scope. They only provide rights over the “invention” described in the specification and claims section of the patent. A patent does not cover inventions that have not been explicitly described, demonstrated, and claimed in the application, nor for abstract ideas that existed before the invention.

What rights does a patent provide?

Once granted, a patent gives the owner the exclusive right to commercially make, use, distribute and sell the invention in a particular geographic area, subject to any licenses (permissions) the owner may give to third parties, for a period of up to 20 years from the filing date.

*Not to be taken as legal advice.

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