In the 21st century of unprecedented access to information and resources, people have precious opportunities to turn their unique ideas into working products. Meanwhile, it is worth keeping exceptional rights on what you create, so a general understanding of the patent law is a must.
The main patent principles
A patent can be defined as a legal right allowing an inventor (patentee) to prevent others from using the new invention without permission. Granted by the UK Intellectual Property Office, the patent makes it possible for a patent owner to sue those who somehow apply or sell the patented product or technology during a period of 20 years since the day of patent issue. After that, the monopoly is over and the patented subject turns to the public domain, likely to contribute to the state economy.
Patents are supposed to protect technologies or products that feature new functional forms, whether it is the way something is done or the process result itself. At the same time, the new project is not expected to be complex, it rather brings tech evolution than some kind of revolution.
Initially, patents are to secure the owner’s business. Furthermore, they are free to be licensed or sold to other people. As long as the inventor is an employee and creates a new product while working on the employer’s premises, the patent rights go straight to the employer. Mind that owning a patent does not unquestionably provide you with power to use the invention, since that might infringe rights of the people who somehow relate to the innovation.
Unfortunately, there are no so-called “world patents”: if you apply for a patent in the UK Intellectual Property Office, it will only spread on the UK. So if you find it necessary to get patented beyond, more applications should be made. A great solution is to apply for an “international” patent within the Patent Cooperation Treaty that conveys a number of the industrially prospective countries. Also, the European Patent Convention grants your invention with a protection in around 40 countries. Given there are many uncertainties now caused by the ongoing Brexit process, it is worth consulting a qualified lawyer in your location – London solicitors – you can find one on various online portals storing information on legal support.
Interestingly to note, the UK patent can even save you some money within the UK Government’s Patent Box initiative: you get a reduced rate on Corporation Tax – only 10% collected from profits made on the products/services patented.
Patent acquisition procedure
Application for a patent takes some time, but, in the end, it is worth it as long as you care about your invention.
As a rule, patent applications are directed to the UK Intellectual Property Office, which is to judge whether your invention deserves a patent. The application can be submitted by you personally or by an authorized agent.
The moment the UK IP Office receives a patent application, it is given a number and a filing date. Since the filing date, your application is under consideration and you are free to use the invention in any possible way that does not infringe other parties’ rights. The application evaluation process can be affected by any information from the public domain, as well as patent applications submitted prior to your filing date.
In one year after the patent filing date you are to work on the invention and search for its commercial application. There are certain items to be submitted:
- a protection seeking claim with a detailed description of the invention and related objects to be protected
- a brief and clear description of the invention
- a search request.
The last one is a paid service provided by the UK IP Office dealing with an advanced search for all available documents that might be somehow connected to your invention. In the end, you get a search report, indicating whether there are any closely similar inventions and defining the likeliness of your patent application to be approved.
In 18 months after the filing date, the patent application is automatically published, but this does not allow you to claim for any exceptional rights yet.
Within 6 months after the publication, another paid examination is required. During this time, you have to persuade the UK IP Office that your invention is innovative and deserves a patent in case they try to plead against its newness and originality. If you are lucky and the invention is considered to be worthy, you are granted a patent, which is then published in the UK Intellectual Property Office’s Official Journal and confirmed by a certificate.
On average, it takes from 18 months to 4 years to get a patent. Mind that 4 years after the patent is granted, you are to pay annual renewal fees, growing in an amount from year to year.