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What is a patent?

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Does your invention need a patent? Do you need to register your trade mark or design? Have you considered copyright? Or could you need all four? It is essential to know your intellectual property, and make sure you make the right investment to protect your idea.

What is a patent?

Patents protect the features and processes that make things work. This lets inventors profit from their inventions.

A patent gives you the right to stop others from copying, manufacturing, selling, and importing your invention without your permission. The existence of your patent may be enough on its own to stop others from trying to exploit your invention. If it does not, it gives you the right to take legal action to stop them exploiting your invention and to claim damages.

The patent also allows you to:• sell the invention and all the intellectual property rights • license the invention to someone else but retain all the intellectual property rights • discuss the invention with others in order to set up a business based around the invention.

You can ask the Intellectual Property Office to do a patent search for you for a charge. This option may be useful if you need comprehensive search results to help make a decision on whether to pursue an application.

The cost of filing a UK patent is £200 made up of a £30 fee for a preliminary examination, a £100 search fee and £70 for a substantial examination. Assistance is on hand for applicants who have any queries on any aspect of the application form.

Applications for patents can be made either electronically or on paper and take on average around two years to be granted. The maximum period for the patent process is 4.5 years.

If a patent is granted it must be renewed every year after the fifth year with an annual renewal fee. In most cases patents can be renewed for a maximum period of 20 years. For more information on managing your patent, visit the Intellectual Property Office.

Related articles What is a trade mark? Protecting your intellectual property rights Protecting your ideas

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