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Patents Explained UK Guide

This patents step by step guide is a good place to start if you have a novel idea for patenting. The section explains the full patent process, from having an idea to getting a granted patent. The actual 'idea' is the start point for all businesses and inventions. A patent is the expression of that idea, similar to intellectual property rights.

When to File for a Patent Application?

In fact, filing for a patent is not always the best option. There are certain situations when it is better NOT to file a patent application.

It would depend most on what kind of invention you want to protect. But, in some cases, other types of Intellectual Property (IP) protection may be more suitable.

That is one good reason to learn more about patents, and understand how a patent works, before you apply. So here’s the step by step guide.

First, consider whether a patent is going to be right for the creation. Yes, it would exclude others from making, selling, or using your invention. But, patents are expensive to enforce and the most difficult form of intellectual property to get.

Researching Whether it Already Exists

The next step is to determine whether the invention is a ‘novel’ one at the time a professional IP advisor files the patent application. A novel creation is one that was never made public in any way (anywhere in the world).

It is quite surprising how many inventions already exist, even though a lot are unheard of. In fact, the majority of global patent applications fail to get granted because a similar invention has already been published.

So, to save time and money:

Conduct a search through published patents to see if it already exists, before you apply. You can also carry out a search of other relevant documents (e.g. trade booklets and catalogues).

An easy place to start searching is the Internet. It may show that your idea already exists, saving you extra time and money. The next step is to search for a patent in the databases of published patents.

Note: You can pay a patent attorney or other professional IP advisor to carry out a search on your behalf. Either way, you should avoid infringing someone else’s patent or intellectual property rights.

Before Sharing Your Information

There are ways to avoid the most common mistake made by inventors. It can be very costly to reveal the details of your invention before applying for a patent.

It can happen by talking to people about it, giving a demonstration, or taking out an advert (e.g. in a magazine). This could also happen if you discuss your invention with potential partners, such as:

  • Investors
  • Manufacturers
  • Stockists

Thus, not disclosing something in the first place is the best way to keep it confidential. But, what if it is important to talk to someone before you apply?

In this case, get them to sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) beforehand. Doing so would force them to treat the information they receive in confidence.

Note: Patent attorneys and solicitors must treat conversations with complete confidentiality. Besides the costs, making an invention public before the application also risks losing the possibility of being granted a patent.


Apply for a Patent

Use this service to apply for a UK patent through the Intellectual Property Office (IPO). Further details in the guide also explain:

  • How to pay the application fees
  • Information about the Intellectual Property Office service
  • How to make a patent application by post or by fax

Note: You can file forms and documents for a pending patent to supply new information or add an extra development to an existing application.

Patenting an Invention

The main reason for patenting your invention is to stop anyone making, using, or selling it without your permission. Information in the section also covers:

  • What you can and cannot patent
  • How to prepare, and then apply, for a patent
  • Requesting a search and examination
  • What happens after a patent application
  • The rules on international patents

Managing Your Patent

There are several reasons to change or update your patent after it is granted by the IPO. For example, to keep your details in the patent register up to date, to modify it, or to change the ownership.

Other services available, include:

Note: You can request UK processing of an international patent application if you already applied under the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT).

Search for a Patent

A guide explaining how to search for a patent (e.g. registered, pending, or new applications). The advice and information covers topics on:

  • Checking if a similar patent to your invention already exists
  • Tracking the progress of a published patent application
  • Patent hearing decisions following intellectual property disputes

Patent Rules and Regulations in United Kingdom