Patents protect innovations and grant patent owners exclusive rights over the production, use, sale or import of their invention. A patent is often required by potential commercialisation partners (licensees) as they will likely make a sizeable investment to bring the technology to market.
Patents generally have to meet four conditions: they must be new or novel, they must involve an inventive step, they must be capable of industrial application, and they must fall under one of five categories: process, composition of matter, manufacture, machine, and any new use of any of the above. In recent years, HKU has filed more than 1,000 patent applications (see issued patents and published patents pending approval).
Since the patent application process is expensive (tens of thousands of dollars just to file one application in the U.S., plus additional costs to obtain and maintain an issued patent), it is not possible to file patent applications for all HKU intellectual property. The Technology Transfer Office will carefully review the commercial potential of an invention before investing in the patent process, and will look for creative and cost-effective ways to seek early protection for as many promising inventions as possible.