Business

Patents

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A patent provides an inventor of a product or process the right to prevent others from making and selling the same invention without the patent owner's permission for up to 20 years, provided that annual renewal fees are paid. For a patent to be successfully registered, it is necessary for the inventor to show that the invention:

  • is new;
  • involves an 'inventive step'; and
  • is capable of industrial application.

The invention must therefore have never been made public in any way before the application is filed. The inventive step taken must be one which is not obvious to a person skilled in the art concerned and the invention must be one that can be made or used in any kind of industry. Applications are notoriously lengthy (on average, UK applications take around 5 years) and have a low success rate.

Each patent application is published, even where it is not successful, so for inventors looking to keep their invention secret, they may consider that implementing confidentiality agreements (otherwise known as Non-Disclosure Agreements) in respect of the trade secrets may be of more benefit than applying for a patent. For more information on trade secrets, click here.

Similarly, the invention may not be something that it patentable, for example because it is a scientific theory. Alternatively, if the product has a short shelf life, the long application process may not appropriate and time may be better spent developing the product launch and marketing.

For further information on how to protect inventions via patents and other means, contact one of our Intellectual Property Solicitors here.

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FAQs

How do I apply for a patent?
 
 

Whilst applicants can prepare patent applications and file them themselves, given the complexity of patent law and the paperwork involved in an application, we advise clients to discuss the merits of patent applications with a patent attorney, who is a specialised lawyer, focussing on patent applications and patent law. Forbes Solicitors are able to refer clients to experienced patent attorneys for this purpose.

How do I enforce my patent rights?
 
 

The main responsibility for monitoring, identifying, and taking action against infringers of a patent lies with the patent owner. Where actions of patent infringement are successfully brought, courts can enforce patent rights and issue remedies to the patent owner.

Can I use someone else’s patent?
 
 

A patent owner has the exclusive right to decide who may or may not use their patented invention. Therefore, once an invention is patented, it cannot be made, used, distributed, imported, or sold by others without the patent owner's consent. A patent owner may, however, decide to licence their patent. This would mean that the patent owner grants permission to a third party to make, sell, distribute or otherwise use the patented invention, in accordance with the terms and conditions of the arrangement. In such circumstances, the patent owner will continue to have property rights over the patented invention and the licensee will not have ownership in the invention.

Can I obtain a patent and keep my invention secret?
 
 

Unfortunately not, as when submitting a patent application, full disclosure of the invention to the relevant Intellectual Property Office is required. Generally, the details are then published and made available to the public.

What happens when patent protection expires?
 
 

Once a patent expires, which is generally 20 years from the date of the filing of the application, the protection of the patent ends and the invention enters the public domain. This means that anyone can commercially exploit the invention without infringing the patent.

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Our dedicated Commercial team

John Pickervance

John Pickervance

Partner and Head of Commercial

Commercial

PinCentral Lancashire

Call0333 207 1134

Daniel Fletcher

Daniel Fletcher

Associate

Commercial

PinCentral Lancashire

Call0333 207 1145

Katie Lee

Katie Lee

Solicitor

Commercial

PinCentral Lancashire

Call0333 207 4463

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