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Invention and discovery. What is the difference?

13 Jun 2024
#Practical tips
Head of Department / Patent Attorney / Mechanics Engineer

As an invention, in accordance with the current patent legislation (Part 4 of the Civil Code of the Russian Federation), a technical solution in any field related to a product (in particular, a device, substance, microorganism strain, plant or animal cell culture) or method (process of carrying out actions) is protected over a material object using material means), including the use of a product or method for a specific purpose.

An invention is legally subject to patent rights.

Discovery represents a new achievement made in the process of scientific exploration (see epistemology, materialism) of nature and society. It entails identifying previously unknown, objectively existing patterns, properties, and phenomena of the material world. Foundations of scientific and technological revolutions lie in discoveries, which steer new directions in the development of science and technology and revolutionize social production. The outcome stems from creative (heuristic) activities.

Scientific discoveries and inventions have accelerated the development of science and technology, providing facts that confirm or refute theories.

It is a common misconception that a discovery can be patented as an invention. However, to understand this better, and consequently, to confirm or refute this notion, let's consider the principal differences between an invention and a discovery.

What is protected by a patent for an invention?

  • Products, which include, in particular, devices, complexes, kits, substances, strains of microorganisms, plant or animal cell cultures, genetic and protein constructs;
  1. Devices are products that either do not have any parts or consist of two or more parts connected through assembly operations, existing in functional-structural unity (assembly units);
  2. Complexes include two or more specific products not connected through assembly operations at the manufacturing site but are designed to perform interrelated operational functions, like production lines, electrical and computer networks, ships;
  3. Kits involve two or more products not connected by assembly operations and represent a set of products with a common operational purpose;
  4. Substances are chemical compounds (including nucleic acids and proteins), compositions (mixtures), and nuclear transformation products;
  5. Microorganism strains include strains of bacteria, viruses, bacteriophages, microalgae, microscopic fungi, and consortia of microorganisms;
  6. Cultures of plant or animal cells are tissue, organ cell lines of plants or animals, and consortia of corresponding cells;
  7. Genetic constructions include plasmids, vectors, stably transformed microorganism, plant, and animal cells, transgenic plants, and animals;
  8. Protein constructions are biologically active constructions characterized by the amino acid sequence of one or more components;
  • Methods are processes of performing actions on a material object using material means;
  • Usage of a known method or product for a new purpose; technical solutions consisting of the application of products or methods are considered as products or methods respectively.

In addition to the objects listed above, you need to know what features characterize these inventions in order to understand that this is exactly an invention.

To characterize devices, the following characteristics are used:

  • the presence of one part, its shape, design;
  • the presence of several parts (parts, components, assemblies, blocks) interconnected by assembly operations, including screwing, joining, riveting, welding, soldering, crimping, flaring, gluing, stitching, ensuring structural unity and implementation of the device for general functional purposes (functional unity);
  • structural design of the device, characterized by the presence and functional purpose of parts of the device (parts, components, assemblies, blocks), their relative arrangement;
  • parameters, parameter intervals and other characteristics of device parts (parts, components, assemblies, blocks) and their relationships;
  • the material from which parts of the device and (or) the device as a whole are made;
  • the environment that performs the function of a part of the device;

To characterize compositions, the following characteristics are used:

  • high-quality composition (ingredients);
  • quantitative composition (content of ingredients);
  • composition structure;
  • structure of ingredients;
  • to characterize compositions of unknown composition, use their physicochemical, physical and other characteristics, as well as signs of the production method;

To characterize the method(s), the following characteristics are used:

  • the presence of an action or set of actions;
  • the order of actions in time (sequentially, simultaneously, in various combinations);
  • conditions for carrying out actions; mode parameters, including parameter intervals; use of substances (e.g., raw materials, reagents, catalysts), devices (e.g., fixtures, instruments, equipment), strains of microorganisms, plant or animal cell lines.

Discovery = invention?

It should be noted that, in accordance with the current patent legislation, the following are not inventions, in particular: 1) discovery; 2) scientific theories and mathematical methods; 3) decisions relating only to the appearance of products and aimed at satisfying aesthetic needs; 4) rules and methods of games, intellectual or economic activities; 5) computer programs; 6) decisions consisting only in the presentation of information.

Thus, the myth that a discovery can be patented and an invention patent can be obtained for it is dispelled.

If a discovery cannot be patented, how can one protect their rights? Essentially, it is possible to safeguard your copyright and the priority of your discovery by depositing it. The Russian Academy of Natural Sciences (RAEN) assists in this process. It is the first in global practice to conduct registrations of discoveries in the fields of social and humanitarian sciences, as well as scientific ideas and hypotheses, issuing diplomas that confirm the recognition of scientific achievements as discoveries and secure the authorship and priority.

The Russian Academy of Natural Sciences, with its highly qualified specialists, including authors of scientific discoveries and inventions across various knowledge areas, carries out the procedure for registering scientific discoveries.

Under the scientific and methodological guidance of the RAEN Presidium, the International Academy of Authors of Scientific Discoveries and Inventions operates, conducting independent expert assessments of discovery applications. Based on the results of these evaluations, diplomas are issued that certify the recognition of a scientific position as a discovery.

In summary, it is clear from the above that an invention and a discovery are fundamentally different entities; an invention cannot be a discovery and vice versa, and it is not possible to patent a discovery as an invention.

Head of Department / Patent Attorney / Mechanics Engineer