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How to nail a UK patent application

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If you’ve got an idea for a design or invention and want to protect it from being stolen, securing a patent is a must. Provisional patents are perfect for those who are currently developing an idea and want to retain the legal rights to it. Considering their low costs, many people do opt to sign up for them. There are many online channels that can be used to help you to determine whether your idea is truly original or not, and therefore whether it can be patented. Applying for a patent does not necessarily need to be as complex as you might expect: many young inventors have applied for provisional patents which have protected their inventions, and have also enabled them to get to grips with the basics of patenting – something that will be helpful in the long-term as their careers progress.

Make your patent application stand out

A patent application can be the first step on the road to global success, and new ideas are being patented all the time. However, patience is most certainly a virtue when it comes to standard patent applications. Before you start, make sure that the protection the patent offers your idea would prevent any copying in the markets you are active in. To avoid wasting time and money on existing technology, do a deep and accurate search on databases, sales brochures and the internet. For example, espacenet.com is a free online database provided by the European Patent Office with access to more than 90 million patent documents worldwide, containing information about inventions and tech developments from 1836. For new investors, the website offers guidelines on how to search for patents. The waiting can pay off, and this will help you figure out if your idea is truly original.

Put a convincing case forward

Ideas and inventions have to be truly unique if they are to be granted patents. A vast number of inventors have secured backing from wealthy sources, and if your idea is a one-of-a-kind, there is always a chance that you will be able to benefit support from a backer. Make sure you avoid the Seven Deadly Sins of the Inventor, though. The more a backer is likely to be rewarded in the long run, the more likely they are to put their money behind your idea.

Find support from a patent attorney

The basis of a UK patent is a legal document called a ‘specification’. Its content decides not only whether a patent can be granted, but also exactly what the rights of any patent granted cover. Even if you’re not obliged to appoint a professional representative or a legal practitioner, it may be useful to consult one. Your chances of obtaining a useful patent are much greater if you use an IP professional. The Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys can help you locate an attorney in your area. The Institute also offers free IP clinics in cities around the UK to provide basic advice to unrepresented innovators.

 

United Kingdom application phases

Phase 1: preparing a patent specification

A patent specification is a document describing the invention for which a patent is sought and setting out the scope of the protection of the patent. To make your patent application successful, you would most definitely include detailed descriptions in the specification that are several pages long, a description of different versions of the invention and refer to drawings showing such versions. The style and content vary according to the market and subject matter. For instance, complicated machinery, electronic equipment and chemical processes need many more pages of description and drawings than a straightforward item with few parts.

A patent specification should also include commercial claims. The claims identify the scope of the protection granted by the patent and describe the invention in legal and technical terms, clearly defining what will infringe the patent.

Phase 2: Request for grant of a patent

When your application is ready to go, you file it to the Intellectual Property Office. Whether you are applying for a UK, European or International patent this phase is a natural consequence.

Phase 3: Preliminary examination and search

Once your application has been received, a preliminary examination is carried out to ensure your application meets the formal legal requirements of the laws governing patents. The search is carried out in normally six months. During this period, the examiner identifies those documents that will help she/he decide whether your invention is innovative. Such documents may have been published anywhere in the world and may include published patent applications and technical journals. The outcome of this search is a report which includes a list of all the documents eventually found, accompanied by a cover letter explaining the search.

Phase 4: Publication

If the application is successful, and any formal objections set out in the preliminary examination are overcome, it is published shortly after 18 months from your filing date. At this point, all correspondence between the Intellectual Property Office will be open to the public unless you have specifically asked to treat it in confidence. This, however, can be done only in limited instances and strict terms which can be found on the Intellectual Property Office website. Or, if you feel there is information that should be kept private, don’t include it in any of your correspondence with the IPO.

The application will be published in an electronic version, and a notice will be placed in the Patents Journal on the UK website. As a result, your invention is now searchable, and anyone can comment whether the invention should be patented or not. If your patent is granted, your published application may put off someone from making a similar product or using a similar process.

Phase 5: Request a ‘substantive examination’ within 6 months from publication

A substantive examination is a process carried out to compare the detailed contents of a patent application against prior information to determine its patentability. The scope is to prevent your application to be terminated once it’s been published and is the second-to-last step to being granted a patent.

If your application meets all the requirements, you will receive a letter that explains when your patent will be granted. Usually, this won’t occur before three months, to give people a chance to make comments.

It’s at this point that the advantages of a well-drafted specification become clear. A good specification should provide a number of ways in which the examiner’s objections can be overcome. If you have a poorly drafted specification, it may be impossible to amend the specification to meet the requirements of the UK Patents Act.

Last phase: Your patent is granted

If your application meets all the requirements of the Patents Act 1977 and Patents Rules 2007; the Intellectual Property Office will grant your patent, publish your application in its final form and send you a certificate. (Hurrayyy!! Partayyyy!!)

A UK patent gives owner rights of an invention for up to 20 years – yet only if the patent is kept in force by paying renewal fees every year. If the fees are not paid, your patent rights will end.
The twenty-year patent protection period may be broken down into two periods, one of an initial five and another of fifteen to allow for better understanding on how patents are granted. Once you’ve applied for a patent, you or your company are provided with an exclusive license to work on a new invention for five years, starting from your date of filing the application. After the completion of first five years, you will need to apply annually to renew the patent protection for the next fifteen years. Patent rights and protection provide complete monopoly over a market for a sufficient time for inventors to reap the benefits of their efforts to the maximum.

The Relevance of patents today

The drive behind the development of the Patent system was to motivate an entrepreneurial and industrious attitude among individuals. Therefore, granting patent rights and protection by a government authority was done to assure individuals and companies of adequate security concerning their novel products and ideas.
If patent supports invention, it also empowers innovation. Considering the standard patent granting procedure also entails public access and publishing to all details regarding an invention or idea, the published info not only serves as food for thought to inspire further invention, rather it also may stimulate individuals to think about modifications to the specific invention.

Nowadays, businesses and companies treat intellectual property as a valuable asset and patent and intellectual property rights are considered to be more important than ever before for a business’ growth and progress. The increased involvement of industrial giants, especially from the technology sector in the litigation of patent rights and protection, is only expected to increase and expand further.

With the advancement of more interactive technological devices, product design and intellectual innovation have gained immense importance in the tech industry. Accordingly, it is no surprise that various businesses are now focused on availing patent rights and protection in a more pro-active manner, to have a stronghold of a specific market segment and a competitive edge over others.