• Intellectual property
  • January 28, 2022

What can be patented and how to apply for a patent?

Have a new idea and want to know how to become a patent owner? SMEs that own Intellectual Property, including: Patents, Copyrights, Trademarks and Registered Designs generate almost double (98%) the revenue per employee compared with companies that do not own any Intellectual Property rights. Patents can be complex and expensive, in this article, you will find the answers you need to protect your business ideas. 

What can be patented?

Patents protect technical products, processes and inventions and how those things function. They tend to be most common in the electronics and pharmaceutical industries. The invention has to be new, inventive and industrially appliable. Generally, it needs to offer a novel way of doing something or provide a new solution to a problem; simple modifications to something that already exists will be precluded from patent protection. 

Examples of patentable innovations include things like chemical compounds, computer hardware, machines, drugs, mechanical devices and industrial processes. The iPhone, 3D printer, helicopter drone, solar panel, GPS system, and bionic eye would be classic examples.

What cannot be patented?

There is a whole range of things that can’t be patented, including anything which consists of something within the list below:

(a) a discovery, scientific theory or mathematical method;

(b) a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work or any other aesthetic creation whatsoever;

(c) a scheme, rule or method for performing a mental act, playing a game or doing business, or a program for a computer (unless it involves a wider computer-implemented invention);

(d) the presentation of information;

(e) a method of treatment of the human or animal body by surgery or therapy; or

(f) a method of diagnosis practised on the human or animal body. 

How to apply for a patent?

Before filing your application, the first step to undertake is a Freedom to Operate check (to check there are no existing patents covering the same subject matter). This should generally be performed by professionals as it needs to involve a fairly exhaustive search of existing patent literature including general checks on prior art, pending patents, and published patents in force.

When submitting your patent application, you need to include a specification containing a clear and concise description of the invention, its technical features, and how to put it into practice. The specification must disclose the invention in a manner which is clear and complete enough for the invention to be performed by a person skilled in the art. This demands a high degree of technical and legal expertise so it is always prudent to engage a patent specialist to assist with the process.

The application then undergoes a rigorous examination process that can take several years - often up to 5 years or longer. This includes a preliminary examination phase, which is followed by the issuing of a search report, and then publication which happens 18 months after you file. It is at that point that your invention can be seen by competitors. And then a more substantive examination takes place before the patent is eventually either granted or refused.

A word of warning! Patents generally have to be applied for before any public disclosure of the invention, so it’s really important not to go public with your invention before making a patent application. That may mean it’s not possible to market a new product until the patent application has been filed. 

Questions about patents?

SMEs face more barriers to patenting than larger firms, primarily in their awareness and understanding of the process and the costs of legal advice. With LawBite the cost of legal advice is not a problem.

LawBite is an advanced virtual platform that provides a modern experience, making expert legal advice that is:

  • Easier to access
  • Clearer to understand
  • Much more affordable

If you have any questions regarding patent protection and how to avoid patent infringement (such as what can be patented, how to apply for a patent, or how to prepare your patent application) you can book a free 15-minute consultation with one of our expert Intellectual Property Lawyers. You can also check out our Intellectual Property Products, specially designed to add value and help you safeguard the future of your business.

Visit www.lawbite.co.uk to find out more about patent law.

In closing

Nothing in this article constitutes legal advice on which you should rely. The article is provided for general information purposes only. Professional legal advice should always be sought before taking any action relating to or relying on the content of this article. Our Platform Terms of Use apply to this article.

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