Does an invention have to be a major advance to obtain a patent?
Not necessarily. To obtain a patent for an invention, the invention must be
new and inventive. An invention is new if it has not been disclosed to the
public anywhere in the world before a patent application for the invention
is filed. An invention is considered to be inventive if, when compared to
everything else that is available to the public, it would not be obvious to
a person with reasonable knowledge and experience of the subject area of the
Is there anything that you can’t get a patent for?
Yes, there are a number of things which are excluded from patent protection
under UK law, such as aesthetic creations and scientific discoveries.
However, if the invention involves more than just an abstract idea, for
example a piece of apparatus that uses a scientific discovery, it may be
possible to obtain a patent for the apparatus.
Can I patent computer software?
Possibly, depending on what the software does. Computer programs ‘as such’
are excluded from patent protection in the UK and Europe. However, if you
have developed a computer program that produces a technical effect when run
on a computer, it may be possible to patent the computer program, provided
it is novel and inventive. Software that is excluded from patent protection
in the UK and Europe may be patentable in the USA where there is a more
Software patents are a complex area of patent law, and you should speak to
one of our patent attorneys if you need advice in this area.
Can I patent business methods?
Business methods are not patentable in the UK or Europe. It may be possible
to obtain patent protection for some business methods in the USA, where
there is a more relaxed approach than in the UK or Europe.
How can I find out if someone has already come up with my invention before?
It is a good idea to carry out some searching prior to filing a patent
application. Just because you haven not spotted your invention in the market
place, this does not mean that it has not already been published somewhere
else in the world. One useful patent database is
which allows you to search published patents and patent applications.
It is also
possible to conduct professional searches prior to filing a patent
application. We offer different levels of novelty search with different
associated costs. Please contact us for more information.
relates to an improvement to an existing product. Can I still get a patent
It may be
possible to obtain a patent for an improvement to an existing product,
provided the improvement is considered to be a new and inventive feature.
Many patents are granted for inventions which relate to improvements to
Can I talk to
people about my idea before filing a patent application?
You must keep
your invention secret until a patent application has been filed. If it is
necessary to discuss your invention with a third party, you should ensure
that the third party signs a confidentiality agreement. Chartered Patent
Attorneys are bound by a code of confidentiality so any discussion with us
is in the strictest confidence.
Do I need a
prototype of my invention to file a patent application?
It is not
necessary to have a working prototype or model before a patent application
is filed.However, it is essential that you are able to provide a description
of your invention which contains enough information to enable another
person, familiar with the relevant area of technology, to reproduce the
Do I have to
use a patent attorney to file a patent application?
There is no
official requirement to use a patent attorney to file a patent application
in the UK. However, patents, and the procedures for registering them, can be
very complicated. If you file without professional advice, you run the risk
that you will have disclosed your invention to the public without obtaining
any useful level of protection. The Patent Office will often recommend to
patent applicants that they should use a patent attorney.
How long does
it take to get a patent application filed?
patent application can be filed in about four weeks, assuming that we have
been provided with all of the necessary technical information. Patent
applications can sometimes be prepared and filed on an urgent basis if the
circumstances require this, for example in the case of an imminent
once I have filed my application?
patent office grants a patent for an invention, it will carry out a search
and an examination of the application, to determine whether the invention
fulfils the requirements for a patent to be granted. Even if a search has
been carried out before a patent application is filed, each patent office
will still carry out its official search. If a patent office finds that an
defined in a
patent application is not new and inventive, it may be possible to amend the
application or submit arguments to the patent office to overcome these
How long does
it take to get a patent granted?
It can take up
to around four and a half years from filing a UK patent application to
secure grant of a UK patent. It may be possible to obtain grant more quickly
and, if this is of interest, please speak to one of our patent attorneys. It
can take longer than this to obtain grant of overseas patents, such as a
Can I add
information to my patent application after it has been filed?
it is not possible to add information to a patent application after it has
been filed, so it is extremely important that you provide your patent
attorney with as much technical information as possible at the outset.
What if I
modify my invention after filing a patent application?
provide your patent attorney with details of any modifications or
developments as soon as possible before they are non-confidentially
disclosed. Your patent attorney will then advise you about the best way of
protecting these, bearing in mind that it will not be possible to add
information to the patent application already on file.
my product ‘patent pending’ or ‘patent applied for’ give me any protection?
No, but it may
act as a deterrent to third parties who would otherwise be unaware that you
are pursuing patent protection for your invention. We generally recommend
that you include the patent application number when marking your product in
this way. You must not mark your product ‘patent pending’ or ‘patent applied
for’ if a patent application has not been filed or has lapsed for any
Do I have to
wait until my patent is granted before I can disclose my invention?
No, you can
disclose details of your invention as soon as a patent application has been
filed to protect it. If you are likely to make significant developments or
modifications to your invention, we generally recommend against making
non-confidential disclosures until a patent application has been published,
which normally occurs around eighteen months after filing.
How long does
a patent last?
A patent lasts
20 years from the date of filing of the patent application, subject to the
payment of renewal fees.
Can I get a
No. It is
possible to file an international application. However, such an application
merely streamlines the procedure of obtaining a number of individual
national patents and does not result in a granted international patent. It
is also possible to file a European patent application, in which
European Patent Office will examine the application and determine whether or
not a European patent can be granted for the invention, but once again this
is simply a streamlined route to a number of separate national patents
How much does
it cost to obtain a patent?
The cost varies
depending on a number of factors such as complexity of the subject-matter,
factors arising during prosecution at the Patent Office and professional
time. Please feel free to call us to discuss costs.
What do I get
from my UK patent?
A patent is
essentially a bargain with the state in which, in return for disclosing your
idea to the public and thereby enabling technical developments, you obtain a
monopoly right for your invention in the country concerned for the duration
of the patent. A patent is a legally recognised property that you may
enforce, assign or license.
If I get a
patent for my product, will the government help with the legal costs
some insurance companies offer policies which help towards the cost
associated with enforcing a patent.
invention is patented, could I still infringe someone else’s patent?
Yes. Even if
you obtain a patent for your invention, if somebody else has an earlier
broader patent which covers your invention, the exploitation of your
invention, for example by manufacture or sale, would constitute an
infringement of that patent.
What should I
do if I think someone is infringing my patent?
contact your patent attorney as soon as possible and provide full
information about the infringement. The course of action taken will depend
on the circumstances but usually, in the first instance, your patent
attorney will prepare and send a suitably worded letter to the alleged
infringer. Often, the situation can be resolved without recourse to formal
legal proceedings. You should not contact the alleged infringer yourself as
difficulties could occur if you make unjustified threats.
How can I keep
track of my competitors’ patenting activities?
We offer a
patent name watching service which is able to identify newly published
patent applications, in the name of a particular company or individual.