What is the difference between an invention and an innovation?

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Sometimes we get confused between – Invention and Innovation. We think that the words invention and innovation is same and can be used interchangeably. But there is a very thin line of difference between them.

An invention is a new idea or a new discovery while an innovation is an improvement over the existing discoveries. An invention is the discovery of new ideas while an innovation is the mere changes in those ideas to make them more beneficial or advantageous. An invention can be a new product, process or composition while an innovation is enhancements in these product, process or composition. Innovation can be done keeping in mind the environment prevailing in its usage.

An invention is a new concept while the innovation is the enhancements over that concept. The invention can be patented but an innovation cannot be always a patentable material. The invention usually overcomes the three criteria’s of patentability i.e. novelty, inventive step and commerciability, but an innovation may not always overcome three criteria’s of patentability. The innovation may lack an inventive step and can get rejected in the Patent Office. But according to section 3(D) of the Indian Patent Act 1970, if an innovation or an improvement over the existing invention has efficacy then it forms a patentable material. Again a very thin line exists between the judgement of the innovation to be a patentable subject matter.

For example, discovery of a mobile phone is an invention while the smartphones on the other hand are the innovations over the mobile phones.

The invention happens at a slower pace and may take more time to get developed while an innovation happens at faster rate and does not need much of the time to get developed. An invention may or may not need any inspiration from the problems prevailing in the nature while an innovation comes from the problems prevailing in the nature. Innovation is a solution to problems. An innovation comes from the following:

  • Any need in the public or the users
  • High cost of the product
  • Outdated version of the existing product
  • Solutions of problems which evolves themself automatically
  • In present scenario although irrelevant or not needed much by the market or society but to establish monopoly and keep attracting peoples

Further talking from legal point of view, an innovation should necessarily be kept updating and Patent of Additions (POA)/Continuation-in-Patent (CIP) should be kept filing on updates/upgrades. While sometimes on contrary to keep updating, the invention since it is new of its kind, find its superiority in the market for a larger time window and necessarily need not to be updated/upgraded.

So, in conclusion although the innovations are easy to do but hard to get protection (grant) legally and lifetime of innovations are short while inventions are hard and time taking process but easier to protect and keeps their monopoly for a larger time in the market.


Abhishek Tiwari

Patent Analyst


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