If you have an idea for a new invention but are not sure whether someone else has already thought of it, or you are an employee who has conceived a new way of doing something that could be worthy of protection from exploitation elsewhere, you should investigate the possibility of patenting your invention. So, what are the criteria for lodging a successful patent application and how long does it take?
Can It Be Patented?
It is not sufficient merely to have had an idea for something. The invention you wish to patent must be novel (new) and must be able to be made or used somehow in some form of industry. The novelty – i.e. the part of the invention that is ‘new’ – must not be obvious to someone who has knowledge and experience in the field to which your invention applies. In other words, it must be innovative.
Who Can Apply?
You must ensure that you have the right to apply for the patent. If your invention was created with another person, you can make a joint application. If you have invented something whilst carrying out your normal duties as an employee, the invention will normally be the property of your employer. If you are in doubt, seek specialist advice on the individual facts of your case. It is also possible for companies to apply for patents.
Your patent application will fail if a similar application has already been lodged by another person. Your patent application will fail if someone else has already lodged a patent application for the same idea. Before you apply, therefore, you will need to conduct searches to determine whether someone else has already beaten you to it and has patented the invention, either in the UK or elsewhere in the world.
The Patent Application
There are several stages involved in completing a patent application. You will be required to submit a comprehensive description of the invention you wish to protect, in as much detail as is necessary to distinguish it from others that may be similar. This includes drawings, an abstract (which is a summary of the features of your invention) and claims, which are arguably the most important part of your patent application. Claims describe the invention in words and must be correctly and clearly compiled in order to make sure the application is true to the invention.
The date on which your application is lodged with the UK Intellectual Property Office (UKIPO) is known as the filing date. You then fill in and file a request for a search and pay the application fee. The UKIPO then carries out a preliminary examination of your application to check that it meets certain requirements and searches through published patents and other available material in order to assess whether or not the subject of the proposed patent is new and innovative. If all the formal requirements are met, the UKIPO will publish your patent application shortly after 18 months from the filing date. If your application meets the UKIPO’s criteria and no one successfully disputes your invention, you will be granted a patent.
Worldwide Patent Protection
Making a successful application to the UKIPO only protects your patent in the UK. It may be that you wish to obtain worldwide protection for your invention, in which case you may need to obtain permission to file an application abroad. In this case it is advisable to seek professional advice on how to proceed.
Applying for a patent can be expensive, so before an application is made it is advisable to establish whether or not your invention is patentable and whether there is a discernible benefit to you in obtaining a patent for it.
If you would like advice and assistance on any intellectual property matter, we can assist you.