The first step in obtaining patent protection for an invention is the filing of a patent application. In the UK, patent applications are administered by the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) and take a number of years to process...
As long as the invention was not disclosed before the date of filing, if the IPO deem the invention patentable, a patent will be granted for the invention, giving the owner of the patent (the patentee) a legal right to take legal action against others who use the invention without their permission.
In the UK, the process involves examining the submitted patent application to determine whether it complies with a number of legal requirements, including whether or not the invention is both new and inventive, to allow the grant of a patent. During the process, any objections raised by an examiner will often require submitting technical and legal arguments, in support of patentability of the invention, to overcome the raised objections.
The process typically takes about four years after the application was first made, although sometimes sooner, depending on how promptly letters from the UK IPO are responded to and how complex the invention is. In some cases, it may be possible to expedite this process further.
Once the application has been filed, the applicant is free to disclose their invention without prejudicing their application. The applicant also has a choice, at 12 months from filing the application, whether they wish to pursue protection for their invention in territories other than the UK.
A Patent attorney can handle all aspects of obtaining a patent for an invention, from preparing the specification of the invention, which includes a legal definition and description of the invention, to arguing in support of the patentability of the invention with the UK IPO.
The costs for preparing and filing a patent application, in the UK using a patent attorney, varies depending on the complexity of the invention but, for simple inventions, is typically between £3,000 – £5,000 (ex VAT). The cost for then handling and complying with any raised objections put forward by the examiner, including arguing the merits of invention, is typically between £1,000 – £3,000 (ex VAT). Once the patent has been granted, annual renewal fees will need to be paid which, as of 2022, start at a few hundred pounds and increase incrementally each year.
With a granted patent in hand, should a third party infringe the patent, the patentee can bring court proceedings against the alleged infringer such that they stop their infringing activity and, where applicable, pay the patentee for damages caused by their infringing activity.
- John of Company A, came up with a brilliant invention that he wanted to bring to market.
- John was worried about his main competitor, Bob of Company B, copying his invention once he brought it to market, ultimately losing sales and market share to Bob for his own invention!
- John decided to seek out the professional services of a patent attorney, who helped him prepare and file his patent application which now protects his invention as a granted patent.
- This process cost John £7,500 but John now has the power to stop Bob from trying to copy his invention, ensuring greater sales and market share for himself.
- John has a friend, James of Company C, who similarly came up with a fantastic invention and wanted to bring it to market. John advised James to protect his invention in the same way he did, but James was put off by the cost of spending £7,500.
- Instead, James went ahead and began selling his invention without any form of protection and soon after was making monthly profits of £2,000. However, soon after James’ main competitor, Richard of Company D, began selling James’ invention, and James’ profits fell to less than £1,000 a month.
- After 6 months had passed, James decided to take Richard to court for copying his invention, but lost the case as he had no tangible protection for his invention costing him £15,000 in legal fees.
- Adding this to his losses in profit, James’ total losses from Richard’s activity stood at a whopping £21,000!
- James then took John for a coffee and expressed, in hindsight, how it was a little short sighted of him to refrain from paying a moderate upfront cost to prevent a potentially substantial cost in the future, to which John replied ‘I told you so!’.