A patent is usually a form of market monopoly granted to the inventors by a government authority as an incentive to invent or innovate. This grant is usually for the period of 20 years.

Before an application for the grant of patent is made to the appropriate authority it is important to consider whether the invention meets the requisite criteria, in other words whether the invention is patentable. Section 1 of the Patent and Design Act, 1990 applicable in Nigeria, stipulates the circumstances under which an invention may be considered patentable. Under the section, an invention is patentable if “it is new , result from inventive activity and is capable of an industrial application ; or if it constitute an improvement upon a patented invention and also it is new, result from inventive activity and is capable of industrial application."to note that an invention is new if it does not form part of the state of art; in other words, everything concerning that field of knowledge which relates to the invention has not been made public anywhere, at anytime and by whatever means before the date of the filing of the patent application. However, an invention shall not be regarded as having been made available to the public merely because the inventor

or his successor in title exhibited same in an official exhibition, within a period of six months preceding the filing of a patent application. On the other hand, an invention is said to result from inventive activity if it does not obviously follow from the state of the art; as to the method, the application, the combination of methods, or the product which it concerns, or as to the industrial results which it produces. In any case however, under the Act scientific principles and discoveries are not classified as inventions for purposes of a patent application and grant. Furthermore, an invention is said to be capable of industrial application if it can be manufactured or be used in any kind of industry, including being usable for agricultural purposes.

Finally, inventions on plant or animal varieties, or any biological processes for the production of plant or animal (other than microbiological process and their product) are not patentable. Also patent cannot be obtained in respect of any invention that is contrary to public policy or morality.

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