A beginner's guide to patents

In Intellectual Property

A patent is the legal acknowledgement that you are the creator of a new product, process or design with a practical application either in industry or for personal use.

The details of all patents registered are made public in return for legal protection against copying, or infringement, provided by the International Patent Office (IPO).

How can I patent my invention?
In order to patent an invention, you must be able to show that you have created a device or process that can be used for the benefit of practical activities. Once you have checked with the International Patent Office (IPO) and established that a similar device does not already exist, then you may file an application for patent – typically with the assistance of a legal professional.

In order to make a successful application, you must be able to provide a detailed description of how the product works (along with illustrations, if necessary), legal claims for the parts of your invention that require protection, and an abstract which summarises the technical workings of the invention.

How much does it cost to apply to the IPO for a patent?
Once you have prepared and finalised your designs, specifications and other supporting documentation including the patent application forms you will be ready to submit your application.

There are usually three separate costs incurred when making an application for a patent, and each comes with a different price depending on whether you apply online or through the post. These are the application fee, search fee, and the fee for the substantive examination.

If you are applying online, the total cost for the whole patent process, including these three elements, will cost £230. If, however, you apply through the more traditional postal method then the fees will be higher, with the whole process reaching a total cost of £280.

Once you have been granted a patent you will also have to pay regular renewal fees to keep it active.

What are the benefits of a patent?
Owning a patent allows you to assert your right to ownership of an invention or process, ensuring that nobody else can copy unique elements to pass off as their own. Whilst it is possible to keep an invention or process secret, you will not be granted protection if a third party independently devises the same idea and then patents it first.

Although a patent makes the workings of your process or invention public, it also gives you exclusive rights to use the patented invention for commercial gain, ensuring you any money that comes from the sale or implementation of your patented idea. In many cases, it also gives the owner the ability to monetise the idea by licensing out the technology or ‘work’.

How long does it take for a patent to be granted?
Applying for a patent can be a lengthy process, usually taking between one year and four years for the full patent to be granted. During that time, however, your rights as the creator of the invention or process are still protected thanks to 'patent pending' status.

As soon as you submit the initial application your invention will be protected from third party patent attempts. From this point onwards you will have a twelve month period to decide whether or not you wish to pursue and finalise your application.

What should I do if my patent is infringed?
If you believe that your patent has been infringed, with core elements of your protected device workings or processes copied by another party, consult a legal service provider with specialist skills in patents and intellectual property law. They will be able to advise you on the appropriate measures to protect your rights and claim against those who have infringed accordingly.

Need legal advice on a patent? Start comparing legal service providers now through The Law Superstore.

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