Intellectual Property

Overview

Normally, the best way to protect something that is functionally new is to apply for a patent.

In the UK it is actually free to submit a patent to the UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO, formerly the Patent Office) but we believe it is a false economy to do this.

"when I believe in something I fight like hell for it"

Steve Mcqueen - Inventor of the racing car Bucket seat

Patents: coverage and timescale

You can prepare the application and submit it yourself at minimal cost but we believe that this is a false economy because a patent specification is a legal document. If it is challenged later it needs to be written in a way that will be defendable.

Patent Co-operation Treaty (PCT)
Very briefly, this treaty means that any patent application made in one country is recognized in almost all other countries.

Once you have made the patent application you have up to one year of ‘grace’. That is, you don’t have to do anything further for up to one year. However, after this, you must decide what you want to do.

One year after applying
There are three main options (for UK residents):

  1. Continue the application as a UK-only patent
  2. Continue with the UK application and proceed with international patents also
  3. Withdraw the application before it is published (you lose your ‘priority date’ but the idea remains secret and so you can apply again subsequently for the same idea)

In our view, you should not apply for a patent until you have made and tested something.
This allows you to incorporate any developments into the patent application.

We also believe that you should not proceed with international patenting unless a commercial arrangement is very well set up (such as clear written interest from potential buyers).

It is also advisable to postpone the application until as late as possible in order to allow yourself time to turn the concept into a potential commercial venture. That is, the one year allowed (from filing the application to when you need to move the application to the next stage) will go surprisingly fast and other tasks can take much longer than initially anticipated. This can put pressure on you to make decisions about say international patenting before you are really ready from a commercial standpoint.

Patent timescale
It usually takes at least a couple of years to get a granted patent.

The patent ‘monopoly’ lasts 20 years.