What is a Patent? Protecting Inventions

A patent is a registered intellectual property right to protect an invention for a set period. Patents allow the inventor of the invention to make exclusive use of it and take legal action against anyone who tries to copy or use the invention during that period.

What qualifies to be patented and what doesn’t?

To successfully be granted a patent your invention needs to meet certain criteria. The invention must be new, and it must take an "inventive step" ahead from the existing level of inventions or technology in its field.

It also must be something that can be produced and used in industry, as after a patent expires the invention will fall into the public domain and anyone who wants to will be able to use it.

Most patent applications are for products and manufacturing processes.

Before applying for a patent, you must search to see if your invention already a registered patent has as if there already is a registered patent protection a similar invention you will be unable to apply for one.

Various things cannot be the subject matter of a patent - including:

  • original literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic work, including illustration and photography. This is by copyright
  • a methodical creation such as a mathematical method or method of medical treatment
  • The way information is presented

Why would I need a patent?

We recommend applying for a patent if you are developing a new product, manufacturing process or just something that you are confident hasn’t been made or tried before This is the best opportunity for you make exclusive use of the invention or license the technology to others for up to 20 years during which you will be able to get a head start in your marketplace.

How long does a patent last?

A patent usually has a maximum life span of 20 years in most countries. You will also need to renew your patent every year, which you can do at the UKIPO.

How to apply for a Patent

To apply for a patent in the UK you need to send an application to the UK Intellectual property Office. You should prepare your application by going over your application with a patent specialist.

Once you have made your application you will receive a search report usually within a 6-month period in which will help you decide whether you want to continue with your application of a patent.

After 18 months from filing your application, it will be published. From this point, you will need to ask for a substantive examination which could take years to complete.

Finally, your patent will either be approved or refused. The overall length of applying for a patent could be 5 years and cost you around £4000.

As such in the meantime, it may be beneficial to seek other methods to protect your innovation. To qualify for patent protection it is important that the invention is not "disclosed" to the public domain, so securing your trade secrets and confidential information is essential.

Click the button below to get in touch with our team of innovation protection specialists.

How do you prepare an Application?

Accoridng to gov.uk to prepare your application for your patent there are various criteria that you need to meet:

  • A clear description of your invention that outlines others to see how you produced it and how it works
  • A detailed list of the technical aspects of your invention
  • Legal statements of the technical aspects which are protected

The success of a patent application comes from both the expertise of the patent attorney drafting the submission, but also their expertise in the given area under which the patent falls.

As registering a patent is a very time consuming and expensive procedure it is important to make sure that the application is perfect and protects exactly what is required.

As such, we strongly recommend getting in touch with a patent specialist to help you prepare a patent application to make sure every detail is included to ensure you have a better chance of being granted a patent.

Does my patent work Internationally?

The short answer is no. If you applied for a patent through the UK Intellectual Property office the patent will only be valid in the UK.

However, once you have filed your application you can the ‘queue’ to apply for a patent in different countries within 12 months of applying.

The European Patent Convention (EPC) allows you to apply for a patent in 38 European countries. This allows you to use your patent in the chosen countries under the EPC if they accept your patent. You can choose which countries you want your patent to be enforceable in once you have registered the patent with the UK IPO.

Please note that the European Patent Convention is not part of the European Union legal system and will not be affected by the UK leaving the EU.

Furthermore, the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) allows inventors to apply for patent protection around the world with a single application. To learn more about the EPC and PCT process, contact our specialist solicitor team.

What happens after a patent expires?

Once a patent has expired (usually after 20 years) the inventor will lose the exclusivity of the patent.

For example, if the patent was for a product it would mean this product can now be manufactured and distributed by other companies.

This will lead to a loss of competitive edge and a flood of products suddenly becoming available on the market. This ultimately results in a decrease in the invention's value once it enters the public domain.

As such, for many innovative companies, the key is to continually develop and innovate new product solutions - which is part of the incentive of the patent system.

Why you should consult us

Patents are expensive and resource-draining both in terms of time and money.

It is strongly advised that you consult a patent attorney about making the application. Furthermore, it is essential that you find the correct patent attorney who is both an excellent patent draftsperson, but also familiar with your particular area.

We have a worldwide network of contacts who may be able to assist you, as well as providing key advice around the patent and its commercial aspects ourselves.

Whereas patent attorneys have expertise in drafting patent specifications and conducting technical searches, they are not litigators or experts in commercial agreements.