A patent application can be an expensive and time-consuming process, and we have put this 10 Step Guide Together to give you as much information as possible, so you know how to patent an idea.
Obtaining a patent, on the other hand, can help you protect your idea from unauthorised usage, make revenue through licencing, attract investment, and even pay less tax.
Any inventor or business owner will face the inherent dilemma of wanting to launch a product rapidly before it loses its distinguishing feature and going through the time-consuming process of applying for a patent.
However, the value of protecting your innovations cannot be overstated in the long run.
What Exactly Is A Patent?
A patent is a sort of intellectual property right granted by the government of a country as a temporary territorial right to protect inventions. A patent prohibits anyone who does not have the owner’s permission from making, using, importing, or selling the invention in the country where the patent was awarded. A UK patent has a 20-year term and provides protection within the country as long as annual renewal payments are paid.
Why Protect Your Ideas?
If you wish to take court action against somebody who exploits your idea without your permission, a UK patent may be beneficial.
A patent grants you the right to prevent others from unauthorisedly copying, producing, selling, or importing your innovation without your permission.
You receive protection for a fixed period of time, allowing you to keep the competition at bay.
You can then use your invention yourself.
Alternatively, you can sell your patent or licence it to others. This can be a significant source of money for your company. Indeed, some companies operate exclusively to collect royalties from patents that they have licenced, maybe in conjunction with a registered design and trademark.
What Kinds Of Things Are Patents For?
A patent may be issued for any invention that meets the fundamental requirements of novelty, ingenuity, and practical applicability. In general, “novel” functional or technological components of items or processes can be safeguarded. They are concerned with how things work, how they are manufactured, and what materials are used to make them. Certain topic matters are not patentable under UK patent law:
(a) a scientific discovery, hypothesis, or mathematical approach;
(b) a work of literature, theatre, music, art, or other artistic production;
(c) a strategy, guideline, or technique for performing a mental function, playing a game, or conducting business, or a computer programme;
(d) the manner in which information is delivered;
Is It Possible To Patent Every Idea or Invention?
No. A patent can only be issued for an idea or invention if it meets the following criteria:
new – not widely known at the time of filing a patent application;
unique – not simply a variation of what is previously known; and
capable of being manufactured or used in any industry, i.e. industrial application
In other words, your invention must make a contribution to technology, meaning you can’t, for example, patent a machine with continuous motion.
On a technological level, software-related inventions may be patentable if they go beyond simple software executing on a computer in an ordinary manner.
Because applying for and maintaining even a small number of patents may be costly for a small business, it is critical that firms are well-informed on the measures that need to be taken to properly approach the process.
When Should I Apply For A Patent?
There are some restrictions as to when you should apply for a patent, especially in the development stage of your idea or invention.
During the development process of your product, obviously, you’re eventually going to have to share your idea with your product designer, a market research team, and possibly even investors.
Getting a patent in place before the product has even been manufactured is a tricky situation to put yourself in and you shouldn’t really apply for the patent until this has happened.
This can be a little tricky, and there may be times when you decide that you don’t want to, for instance, send the designs to a manufacturer without a patent in place, so you’re going to file the patent before you do that. This may well be a prudent path to take and is something else that you should probably discuss with your patent lawyer.
Here are our Top #10 Steps to Patent Your Idea:
#1 – Get Professional Advice
An accepted patent could be a highly valuable asset. However, because of very minor flaws in your application, the patent may not be awarded or may have a substantially lower commercial value. It may be difficult, if not impossible, to correct these faults.
A patent lawyer can give you individual guidance on the legal criteria for getting a patent as well as essential commercial issues. If you decide to proceed, they can assist you in drafting your application in a way that maximises your chances of receiving a patent that is helpful for business.
They can advise you on the likelihood of obtaining a patent for your idea. They have worked with the patent office to overcome objections, and they can also help you find qualified agents outside the UK who can support your patent application in other countries.
If you decide to pursue a UK patent on your own, the following tips may be helpful.
Please keep in mind that the information in this article is only intended to be general information and not legal advice.
#2 – Keep Your Idea Secret
Make it obvious to employees that discussing your idea is strictly prohibited, and if you must share knowledge with another company, use a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) (e.g. a supplier or potential investor).
If your idea is already publicly known, for example, because you have been selling products that include the invention, you are unlikely to be able to get a UK patent.
#3 – Decide Whether Applying For A Patent Is The Right Thing To Do
Even if you undertake most or all of the work yourself, obtaining a patent can be costly and time-consuming. A patent is only useful if it benefits your firm in some manner; for example, if you want to use it to prevent others from copying your idea, you must be prepared to enforce your patent, which can be costly and time-consuming.
A patent, on the other hand, can be a valuable and powerful asset. Patents can be used to restrict others from using your idea, generate revenue via licencing, encourage investment, and even lower your tax cost.
Potential expenses and advantages should be considered as part of your company plan.
#4 – Check No-One Has Beaten You To It
Examine technical journals, product literature, and/or earlier patents for anything that may have already disclosed your invention (or published patent applications).
Anything that has already been made public cannot be patented because patentable inventions must be original.
Because an invention must additionally include a “inventive step,” a patent is unlikely to be issued for an obvious modification of an existing solution.
#5 – Prepare Your Application: Describe Your Invention
Patent applications are prepared in a fairly specific style in order to comply with numerous requirements of patent law. They must, in particular, offer enough information about the invention so that others can put it into practise.
Figures are extremely useful in explaining certain features of the idea. It can be beneficial to read granted patents in your technical sector to learn how they are written.
Include any alternatives (for example, other materials that could be used) and indicate which versions work better than others.
The specific scope of the sought-after protection is defined in numbered sentences known as claims. In general, these should be written generically, with no unnecessary or optional details.
#6 – File Your Application
You can submit your own application to the Intellectual Property OfficeUK Patent Office online.
Furthermore, the UK Patent Office has a helpful reference that describes the conditions for an invention to be patentable as well as the technicalities of applying for a UK patent, including the associated expenses.
#7 – Get It Granted
As part of the process of obtaining a granted patent, the patent office conducts a search (to identify any relevant prior art) and an examination (to assess your invention in light of the prior art). You may make amendments to your application or provide explanations for your application in correspondence with the patent office during the examination.
If you need a patent urgently, you can request and pay for both of these when you submit your application.
If you’re not in a hurry or wish to postpone any charges, you can pay for these stages later. When further files are made within a year of the initial filing, an abandoned application (for example, because fees were not paid) may nevertheless be utilised as a “priority” application (see the next step).
#8 – Strategic Filing
If you want to introduce goods or services in those countries or if you wish to prohibit competitors from doing so, you need to file patent applications in those countries as well. A skilled advocate may be required to represent you in front of each national patent office.
Within a year of the date of your initial application, you may file further patent applications for your invention in the same or other countries. If you state that you intend to “claim priority” to an earlier application and they both cover the same subject matter, they will be processed as if they were submitted on the same day.
Do not procrastinate because the one-year deadline is very strict.
#9 – Check You Can Launch Your Product/Service
A patent gives you the right to prevent others from stealing and using your idea, but it does not guarantee that you can sell a product or service that incorporates it without facing legal ramifications yourself.
This is due to the fact that other patents may still be in place and cover your goods (or even your invention). For example, if your product is coated with a novel and innovative substance, it may be covered by your patent. However, if the substance itself is still protected by a patent, selling your product would be a violation of that patent.
A “freedom to operate” examination examines if any patents covering your goods are currently in force. In order to avoid infringement, you may need to change your product or obtain a licence for these patents.
#10 – Keep Innovating
All patent applications that have not already been abandoned are published 18 months after filing (or after the priority date). This means that your invention will be visible to your competitors. They might be inspired to create their own improvements or new ideas as a result of this. You may choose to file more applications to protect additional inventions in order to retain your competitiveness.
So hopefully you have found this article useful and you now know the basics surrounding how to patent an idea.
Trademarks, Patents, Copyrights, and Intellectual Property Laws are all there to protect you and your ideas and inventions.
Patenting your ideas might strike you as a pointless exercise but it is always best to protect yourself just in case someone else decides to try and steal your ideas.