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Have a new idea and want to know how to become a patent owner? Businesses that own Intellectual Property (IP), including patents, copyrights, trademarks and registered designs, generate almost double (98%) the revenue per employee compared with companies without Intellectual Property rights. 

Patents, however, can be complex and expensive. Before you make a decision to start the patent application process, it’s important to understand how they work. In this article, you’ll find the answers you need to protect your business ideas. 

What is a patent? 

A patent is a legal right granted by a government to an inventor or applicant, providing exclusive rights to the inventor for a specified period of time. It gives the inventor the right to prevent others from making, using, selling, or importing their invention without their permission. A patent is a form of IP protection that encourages innovation by ensuring inventors get the opportunity to profit from their discoveries.

How long does a patent last?

In general, the duration of patent protection varies depending on the patent type and the country that grants it. The inventor can exercise their exclusive rights during a fixed period of typically 20 years from the filing date of the patent application.

After the patent expires, the invention enters the public domain, and anyone can freely use, manufacture, or sell it without requiring the inventor's permission.

What can be patented?

Patents protect technical products, processes and inventions and how those things function. They’re most common in the electronics and pharmaceutical industries. 

To qualify for patent protection, the invention must be new, inventive, and industrially applicable. In general, it must offer a novel way of doing something or provide a unique solution to a problem. Simple modifications to something already existing will preclude it from receiving patent protection.

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

What can't be patented?

The list below includes a range of things that cannot be patented:

  • A discovery, scientific theory or mathematical method
  • A literary, dramatic, musical, artistic work or any other aesthetic creation
  • A scheme, rule or method for performing a mental act, playing a game or doing business, or a program for the computer (unless it involves a wider computer-implemented invention)
  • The presentation of information
  • A method of treatment of the human or animal body by surgery or therapy
  • A method of diagnosis practised on the human or animal body

How to apply for a patent

Before filing your application, the first step is a Freedom to Operate check (to check if there’re no existing patents covering the same subject matter). 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 clear and complete manner 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’s always prudent to engage an IP specialist to assist with the process.

The application then undergoes a rigorous examination process that can take several years  – often up to five years or longer. This includes a preliminary examination phase, followed by issuing a search report, and then publication, which happens 18 months after you file. 

It’s at that point that competitors can see your invention. And then, a more substantive examination takes place before it’s eventually either granted or refused. To maintain the confidentiality of your idea, it's essential to file a patent application before any public disclosure. 

By doing so, you can ensure that you have legal protection in place before sharing your invention with the public. This may impact your ability to introduce a new product to the market until the application is submitted.

What is the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988?

The Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, provides a legal framework for protecting intellectual property rights and regulating various aspects of creative works, designs and inventions.

The Act outlines the rights and protections for original creative works, such as literary, artistic, musical, and dramatic works. It defines the rights of authors, performers, and creators of copyright-eligible works, including the rights of reproduction, distribution, public performance, and adaptation. The Act also establishes the duration of protection for different types of works.

How much does a patent cost for a product in the UK?

You’re required to remunerate the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) for the submission of your application as well as for the subsequent processing thereof. The minimum expense will amount to £310 upon fulfilling the entire procedure.

To optimise your prospects of obtaining a granted patent, it’s typically necessary to engage the services of a patent attorney for guidance and counsel. This assistance can incur costs reaching several thousand pounds.

How long does it take to get a patent in the UK?

UK patent applications typically take two-and-a-half to four-and-a-half years to be granted, although they can sometimes be granted in less than one year. 

Get legal assistance from LawBite

Obtaining a patent is crucial for protecting your innovative ideas and enjoying exclusive rights to profit from your inventions. Although the process can be complex and costly, it offers significant benefits.

Patents grant you the legal power to prevent others from using or selling your invention without permission, encouraging innovation and driving revenue growth. To apply, ensure your invention is new, inventive, and industrially applicable. Avoid public disclosure before filing the application.

For businesses facing barriers to registering their inventions, we offer cost-effective legal advice and guidance from expert intellectual property lawyers. Our services help safeguard your business's future and we can support you through every step of your journey. To speak to one of our expert IP lawyers, book a free 15 minute consultation or call us on 020 3808 8314.

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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