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Window to the Future

Every autumn, the announcement of the year’s Nobel Prize winners prompts us to reflect on the contribution to mankind of the discoveries and inventions recognized by the committee since 1901. Alfred Nobel established the Nobel Prizes when he wrote his last will in 1895, leaving the majority of his wealth to a fund that was to be awarded:

“to those who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit to mankind.”

Nobel himself was a prolific inventor and secured patent protection for 355 of his inventions, most famously dynamite. However, many Nobel Prize-winning discoveries are not patentable in themselves. Patent law distinguishes between a ‘discovery’ and an ‘invention’, and whilst it is possible to obtain a patent for an invention, discoveries in themselves are excluded. However, the practical application of a newly-observed phenomenon or discovery can lead to thousands of patentable inventions, often across multiple disciplines.

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About the Author

Andrew Rudhall and Mairi Rudkin

Andrew Rudhall joined the patent profession after working in the fields of laser physics and biophotonics. He assists with a variety of patent matters relating to physics and mechanical engineering, with particular experience in the oil and gas sector. Andrew obtained a BA (Hons) in Physics from the University of Oxford. He went on to obtain an MSc in Photonics and Optoelectronic Devices from Heriot-Watt University and the University of St Andrews, and as part of the MSc he also spent time conducting research at DSTL. He subsequently went on to complete a PhD in ultrashort pulse laser physics and biophotonics at the University of St Andrews. Andrew joined Marks & Clerk in 2012.

Mairi Rudkin joined the patent profession after working in the fields of synthetic organic chemistry and medicinal chemistry. After obtaining an MChem in Chemistry with Industrial Experience from the University of Edinburgh, Mairi remained with the same university to graduate with a PhD in the field of transition metal-catalysed organic reactions. In her day-to-day work, Mairi assists a wide range of clients, including large multinational companies and local universities. She advises on various patent matters, including prosecution strategy, infringement and validity and has assisted in Appeal proceedings at the European Patent Office. Mairi handles a diverse range of subject matter, but specialises in the area of medicinal chemistry, medical devices and the use of chemicals in the oil and gas sector.

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