If you believe an idea or invention you are working on will take off and be valuable to you, you need to protect it as your intellectual property. The way to do this might be via trademarks, design rights or binding non-disclosure agreements or you might decide to apply for a patent.
If you choose to go down the patent route, the sooner you begin the better, because it can be a long, drawn-out process. You would be wise to take on a patent agent so that you won’t make any mistakes in this process, which would be time-consuming and even more expensive than the average spend of around £5000 on an application.
The Process of Gaining a UK Patent
Initially, you must acquire an application form from the patent office, to be submitted with your full name and address, and a description of the product you wish to patent. Then you will have up to 12 months from the filing date of your application in which it will remain valid and you can continue. While this may seem a long time, you may need it for fine tuning and making manufacturing arrangements; even setting up the funding you need can take a while.
Your application can only go through to the next stage if you pay the search fee and file claims that properly define your invention. At this stage, a Patent Officer will search for anything similar that might be available to ascertain whether it is truly unique. The product must also be something that is new, useful and non-obvious. After that you can publish your application and all the technical details of the product.
The Patent Office then conducts a full examination with the benefit of the results of the search. If everything is satisfactory, you will be granted your patent. It might be four to five years from your initial application.
How the Patent Protects your Invention
Your patent will be granted in this country for a limited number of years, provided that you make the required regular payments to maintain it. It will make it illegal during that time for anyone else to make, sell or import the product, or copies of it. If anyone infringes the patent, you can bring a civil law suit against them, get an injunction to stop them, and claim compensation.
What your patent will not do is make money from the product. If the invention won’t do that for you there is little point in patenting it. If you want to talk this through with someone independent who won’t give away your intellectual property secrets, why not discuss it in the first instance with your local bookkeepers. Sometimes a listening ear is all that is needed, or they may be able to recommend someone who will help.