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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