Did you know, a UK patent can take up to four years to obtain? No? Well then we bet you might not know that there are tax breaks you may be eligible for if you have a UK patent. If you’re a budding inventor, you’d best get started with our ‘Patents For Dummies’ blog.
Not all inventors are holed up in their sheds, tinkering away secretively. Inventors come in many shapes and sizes; students, entrepreneurs, and creatives. But what exactly do you need to do if you have a GREAT idea and you think you could sell it? Read on to find out…
The most important first step in any patent process is to keep your invention quiet! If you have to tell someone about it, make sure you trust them 100%. Whatever you do, don’t go yelling about your genius invention from the roof-tops. A patent can only be obtained if your invention has not been made public in any way whatsoever.
How Do I Check If Someone’s Already Invented My Idea?
This is a very important step, if someone’s already invented and patented your invention idea, it’s going to be a complete non-starter – and some epic lawsuits have arisen because of this in the past, so you must always check!
Patentscope is the best place to start your search. This database holds 52 million patent documents from all over the world and another 2.9 million patent applications on top of that.
Espacenet is similarly useful, hosing over 70 million patent documents.
Another great free resource is the regular Introduction To Patent Searching webinar hosted by the British Library.
If you want complete reassurance, though, it’s always best to consult a patent attorney.
What Can Be Patented
Now that you know not to talk about your invention and you’re sure it’s not been done before, it’s time to check if it would qualify for a patent in the first place. It’s possible to patent your invention if it is:
- New (not known, not seen in public, not discussed in public)
- Inventive (not obvious, significantly different from a similar invention)
- Must be able to be made or used in an industry
- Not excluded (works of art, scientific discoveries, mathematical methods or data presentation)
Where Will My Patent Work?
A UK-obtained patent will only protect your invention in the UK, so many inventors will spend a lot of time and money patenting their inventions in as many countries as possible to ensure they own the complete rights to their invention. And if you’re granted a patent, the protection lasts for 20 years in the UK.
How Do I Apply For A Patent
UK patents are granted by the UK Intellectual Property Office but if you’re thinking global, try the Patent Cooperation Treaty who can offer a patent which will covers 152 countries. Again, a good patent attorney will be able to point you in the right direction for your specific situation.
Why Does It Take Four Years?
The process is multi-staged, most patent applications take about 4 years but it is possible to obtain a patent in as little as 18 months if you do everything very quickly, usually with the help of an attorney. That’s not to say that you can’t use your invention for 4 years, you can use it as ‘patent pending’ and if you receive your patent a few years down the line you can then take legal action for damages from anyone who has copied it.
Within 12 months of your initial patent filing date, you will be required to file;
- Claims defining the protection you want,
- An abstract summary of the invention,
- A request for a patent search to check for anything similar around the world and
- 18 months after your patent filing, the application will become public, meaning that others could see your invention and copy it at this stage – though if granted your patent you will be able to take legal action retrospectively.
Within 6 months of the patent application becoming public, you must pay an additional fee and have the IPO examine your application. At this stage you will find out if your patent is to be granted, and if not they’ll tell you why not.
How Much Does It Cost?
Patents don’t come cheap – you need to decide carefully if your invention is worth the patent and if it’s likely to be granted a patent. For a UK patent, you can expect to pay anywhere between £3,000 – £8,000, and for a truly international patent you might be looking at approximately the same again.
If you are granted your invention patent, it will also be subject to annual renewal fees of several hundred pounds, so it’s important you discuss this with your patent attorney.
How Will I Make Money From My Patent
Assuming your invention is useful, there’s always money to be made thanks to your patented invention. You can either sell your patent outright to someone who wishes to use it, or you can licence your patent and receive a specified amount for every sale of an item using your patented invention.
Better still, if you’re passionate about your invention and believe you can turn it into a business, you can get right to work on your new company and bring your invention to life, secure in the knowledge that you’ll be the only one to be able to sell your invention.
And Where Does The Tax Break Come In?
In 2013 the Government introduced something known as the Patent Box. The patent box enables companies to apply to pay a lower rate of Corporation Tax on their profits so long as those profits have been made from the sale of a patented invention. You can also benefit from the Corporation Tax cut if your company has exclusively licensed a patent.
What about Trademarks, Copyright and Registered Designs?
Patents aren’t the only type of intellectual property protection, there are a few extras you might need to get in conjunction with your patent. We’ll briefly explain each of these below.
- Trademark – A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol or design that signifies the source your product or service. The simplest example is your company logo. Trademarks are forever (as long as you’re using the logo, for eg) and do not necessarily need to be registered. If you do wish to register your trademark your registration will provided added protection for a regular fee.
- Copyright – Copyright protects creative intellectual property, such as a piece of art or a song. As soon as you’ve created the work in question, you own the copyright to it. Duration of your copyright varies depending upon the work produced, but generally it exists for 70 years after your death.
- Registered Designs – A registered design covers the aesthetics of an item produced. So if your new product is more of a re-invention, than an original invention, you may want to protect its registered design. A good example of a registered design might be a fabric pattern or an everyday object made in a certain shape that has not existed before. You do need to apply for a registered design and renew your application every 5 years.