What Inventions Can be Patented in the UK
Not all inventions or creations can, or will, be granted a patent. To qualify, ALL the following must apply:
- It must be something that can be made or used
- The invention or creation must be ‘new’
- It must be ‘inventive’ (e.g. a simple modification to something that already exists would not qualify)
Some examples of patented items include cell phones and the artificial heart valve (first invented by Charles A. Hufnagel).
Note: Patents can be expensive and difficult to acquire. It is wise to check whether a patent is suitable for your business before you apply for it (details below).
Things that You Cannot Patent
There are certain types of invention that cannot be granted a patent in the United Kingdom. They include things like:
- Artistic, dramatic, literary, or musical works.
- A way to do business, play a game, or think.
- A method of medical diagnosis or treatment.
- A discovery, mathematical method, or scientific theory.
- Certain types of computer programs or mobile applications (apps).
- Certain kinds of ‘essential biological’ processes (e.g. crossing-breeding plants).
- The way that information gets presented.
Before Applying for a Patent
Patenting your invention will be not be an easy form of protection to get for your business. That’s why you should always check if it will be right before applying.
So, as a general rule you should only apply for a patent if:
- Your invention is a new one (there are several ways to search for a patent to be certain yours is new).
- You will be able to invest the time, energy and the money needed to complete the application process.
Note: Having considered the basics of patenting your new invention, if you decide to apply you may find that the application process is:
- Complex: Only around 5% of the applicants who apply without professional help will get a patent.
- Lengthy: The patent process often takes up to five (5) years to complete.
- Expensive: Using professional help means the process is likely to cost around £4,000.
Note: There are other things to consider… even if you get the patent. The owner would need to renew a patent each year to keep it valid. The cost of defending an infringement could be high if you need to take legal action.
Alternative Ways of Protecting Intellectual Property
There may be other methods you can use to protect your intellectual property. For example, it may well be more appropriate for your particular business to:
- Apply to register a trade mark (when creating a brand and the first to market it).
- Use design right (if the way your product looks is important and innovative, as opposed to how it works).
- Use a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) to keep the invention a secret while speaking to others about it (e.g. prior to its launch). Doing so may provide enough protection if you are likely to sell the product for only a short time.
Where to Get Free Help and Advice
There are several ways of getting help to determine whether a patent is going to be right for your business. For example, you might get free and confidential advice from:
This part is important:
You should keep the information on these types of intellectual properties a secret until they get registered. You can use a non-disclosure agreement, a patent attorney, or a solicitor if you need to discuss it with someone.
ALSO IN THIS SECTION
Applying for a Patent
Understanding how to register a patent is important if you decide to apply for patent protection. Further details in the section also explain:
- Eight steps to follow during the application process
- Other ways to get a UK patent granted
- How to prepare the 4 parts needed for patent criteria
- How to complete a ‘statement of inventorship’
Requesting a Search and Examination
There are strict rules on when and how to request your search and examination. You can also find extra information on:
- How the IPO check if an invention is new (substantive examination)
- Which documents to submit, when to file them, and where to send them
After Applying for a Patent
There are several important actions to be aware of after filing your patent application. You may need to file more documents once the patent is pending.
Patent protection of your invention only applies in the country where the patent is actually registered. Find out how international patents work and how to file a patent abroad to get international protection.