Patent - What is a patent?
A patent allows a creator to take legal action to prevent others from copying a unique invention without permission
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A patent is a strict form of legal protection over an invention and the intellectual base of that invention.
What to patent
The guidelines for what can be patented are more exact than other forms of intellectual property (IP) protection. A patent must:
- Be something new and inventive (not just a recreation of something that already exists)
- Be something that can be made and/or used for a purpose
While these may seem like minimal requirements, the UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO) has very specific requirements for what can be considered eligible for patenting.
Why patents matter
A patent provides protection for companies and creators of inventive new products that are at risk of being copied or stolen by potential competitors.
A patented item allows the creator and/or owner the right to take legal action against any individual or company that attempts to copy the item or steal the intellectual property behind its creation.
For individuals or companies with an exciting, new type of product, a patent can be an important part of ensuring that it is not poached by another producer looking to get ahead in the market.
How to get a patent
The patent application process is one of the more complex procedures in the protection of intellectual property.
Patent applications can be lengthy, expensive, and ultimately unsuccessful. Gov.uk provides a guide for patenting inventions, and whether it is a useful avenue to pursue for your business.
The cost of a patent application is typically £4,000, and can take up to five years to process. Only 5% of patent applications are successful.
Alternatives to patents
Although a patent is easily to safest option, there are other ways to protect your intellectual property if it is not eligible for patent, or whether you are not able or willing to commit the time and money to the application process.
Copyrights and trade marks are the most common forms of IP protection. You can also consider design rights and non-disclosure agreements, depending on the item/idea and what is best for your business.