What to know about patents

What do patents cover? 

Patents protect new inventions and cover how things work; what they do; how they do it; what they’re made of; and how they are made. A patent gives the owner the right to prevent others from making, using, importing or selling their invention without permission. 

Do I have to apply to get patent protection?

Yes. You will need to apply to get a patent and the process usually takes two to three years, with a maximum of four and a half years.

How long does a patent last for?

A maximum term of 20 years from the date of filing of the patent application at the Intellectual Property Office (IPO), subject to payment of renewal fees.

Is a patent a legal requirement? 

There’s no legal requirement to apply for a patent, but it may be wise to do so. If you don’t apply to protect your invention, anyone can use it without your permission. 

What will it cost to obtain a patent? 

If you do apply for a patent, you’ll need to pay fees to the UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO) and you should speak to your lawyer about making an application.
The UK patent application currently costs £280 to process. This overall cost is made up of:

  • …a £30 application fee; 
  • …a £150 search fee; and 
  • …a £100 examination fee. 
Alternatively, the fees are £20, £130 and £80 respectively if you file the application electronically. Once the process has been completed and your application has been successful there’s no charge for applying for the grant of a patent. 

What will my invention need in order to qualify for a patent?

Your invention:

  • …must be new;
  • …must have an inventive step that is not obvious to someone with knowledge and experience in the subject; and
  • …must be capable of being made or used in some kind of industry.
It must not be:

  • …a scientific or mathematical discovery, method or theory;
  • …a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work;
  • …a way of performing a mental act, playing a game or doing business;
  • …the presentation of information, or some computer programs;
  • …an animal or plant variety;
  • …a method of medical treatment or diagnosis; or
  • …against public policy or morality.
Natasha Maddock is a solicitor with Riverview Solicitors.

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