Patent law goverance is generally concentrated in three places:
- The legislation
- The patent office
- The courts
- See also: Category:Legislation by country
In many cases, the legislation is vague and open to interpretation. This greatly reduces its importance. If you want to know the law, you will usually find it in court rulings, not in the legislation.
The EU software patents directive was an attempt to change legislation. As of June 2010, the New Zealand parliament are working on changing their legislation and legislative proposals are coming in Australia and Israel.
How legislation gets ignored
Patent offices and courts are supposed to follow the legislation. However, if a patent office ignores the legislation and grants an invalid patent, and if the court also ignores the legislation and upholds the invalid patent, then invalid patents have the same value as valid patents.
This situation is surprisingly common because most patent offices are paid for accepting patents, not for rejecting them. So patent offices usually look for interpretations that allow them to grant as many patents as possible. The courts are sometimes more reliable, except when there is a "specialist" court for patents (like the US CAFC). These courts are usually full of judges who are patent "experts", which mean they come from the patent industry, which is an industry that is focussed on obtaining patents. These courts have the same mentality as the patent offices, and they also use bizarre interpretations to support the validity of a patent.
So if the courts are not neutral, the legislation is ignored.
- Main article: Patent office case law
Patent offices (without any well-known exception) make a profit on applications that they approve.
- Main article: Case law
The decisions of the courts are the most important.
Many court cases, even among non-USA companies, take place in the USA. (See forum shopping)
ESP Wiki has articles about the court procedures and hierarchy of some countries:
- Canadian patent courts and appeals
- German patent courts and appeals
- UK patent courts and appeals
- USA patent courts and appeals
Other important institutions
Other institutions can have a role, such as the United States International Trade Commission, to which some patent holders apply hoping to block imports and exports from the USA of competitors' products.