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What is a patent?

A patent is a protection for inventors which stops others from using the invention(s) for a period of time.

Can all inventions be patented?

A patent will only be granted for an invention if:

  • the invention is new

  • it involves an inventive step

  • it is capable of industrial application

  • it is not a computer program, a method of doing business or otherwise excluded

What do patents do?

If a patent is granted, it gives the patent owner a monopoly over his invention, meaning that no one else can copy, manufacture, sell or import it without permission for up to 20 years.

Who owns a patent?

Usually, the patent owner is the inventor. If something is invented by an employee, they will be the inventor specified on the patent application but the patent will usually be applied for and owned by the employer unless something else is agreed in the Employment contract.

How do I get a patent?

An application for a patent needs to be filed with the Intellectual Property Office (IPO). You can apply on the IPO website and also find out more information about the process. You can check the current UK patent application fees here. Note that your major cost will lie in drafting the patent application, which is a highly specialist activity.

Is it a difficult process?

Patent applications are always expensive and time-consuming. Details of the invention and the technology involved also become available to the public after a period of time (18 months after the original filing date in the UK). Others can therefore use the details to develop similar technology and it can be very damaging if your patent application is not ultimately successful.

Before making a patent application, you need to carefully weigh up the potential benefits against the cost and complexity of the process. You may want to Ask a lawyer to help you decide.

The Patent Box

If you come up with an UK or European patent, there is a valuable UK tax break called the Patent Box which your company or its exclusive licensee, if they qualify, can potentially use to reduce any corporation tax. For more information, read The Patent Box.

For the right invention, this can make a patent a very valuable corporate asset.

The IPO’s website and the World Intellectual Property Organisation’s website are helpful sources of further information about patents. If a party breaches your patents, consider issuing a Cease and desist letter for IP infringement to protect your intellectual property. 

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