Do you need a patent to protect your technology? That depends. A patent isn’t always the right solution to protect yourself from competitors. In some cases, it’s simply a waste of money. To understand if you need a patent, you first need to know how they work and what protections they offer. For all the details about patents, read this article.
- What kind of inventions can be patented?
The United Kingdom Patent and Trademark Office (UKIPO) defines an invention as “any new and useful process, the machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof.” The UKIPO is the government agency responsible for managing patents, trademarks, and copyrights.If you want to protect your technology, you must register it with the UKIPO.
Patents protect inventions. They don’t make stuff. We already know that. But patent law significantly affects how you protect your brand. To understand whether you need a patent to protect your brand, you first need to understand how they work.
Patents protect specific arrangements of words, such as words on a page or clauses in a contract. Patents specify what you can do with the invention. They also specify how your company can use your invention.
Some patents are trade secrets, which must be kept private. They describe a method of doing something with limited or undisclosed information and prevent competitors from using that information to make similar innovations. Some patents are software inventions. They describe how specific software works, and how those methods and programs can be combined to create new inventions. Software patents aren’t usually granted, but other kinds of patents can be so burdensome that companies erect barriers to protect their ideas.
A patent allows other companies to copy an application, but it makes it illegal for those companies to tell other companies how to do something. Patents show other companies that your invention works, but no one else has permission to talk about the invention.
To protect your trade secrets, you need to create formal protocol contracts. These contracts outline how you will share your confidential information with other companies. An NDA (non-disclosure agreement) is one type of protocol contract.
Protocols cover key parts of a company’s operation. A joint venture and a joint venture-like company are two different types of companies that typically work in joint venture situations.
2. How much does it cost to get a patent?
It’s not cheap to get a patent. The filing fee to submit a non-provisional utility patent application to the UKIPO is currently $730. The USPTO estimates that the non-provisional application process will take about 30 months from start to finish, with an additional six months or so for the patent to be approved.
Patents are defensive weapons. If the infringement is found to be invalid, a patent grants the inventor the right to prevent the sale or use of a product or process that infringes its patents. In order to use a patent, a company must pay a royalty to the owner of the patent — usually the patent owner after collecting the license fee from the potential customer.
Patents were economically beneficial for inventors for years. Prior to the 1800s, inventors could sell their patents for $1 each to anyone who wanted to buy it. However, without paying the owners of the patents, the inventor didn’t receive any monetary reward for the invention. There was no incentive for inventors to go to great lengths to protect their patents.
Before that, inventors received a reward for scoring at least one patent. Additionally, they could have a monopoly on their invention if they had many patent applications to defend.
Prior to World War I, patents were granted mostly to large companies. However, that changed when Standard Oil made an investment in getting patents to protect its new technology. The Standard Oil company was known for pioneering some of the most important technologies in the 20th century. Two examples are gasoline and the internal combustion engine. By acquiring patents in order to defend against potential competitors, Standard Oil was able to lock up technological developments for decades. Of course, Standard Oil is no longer around.
With patents coming into play, companies could be incentivized to go to great lengths to protect them. They would absorb the costs of acquiring the necessary patents by protecting them from competing parties.
3. Where do I apply for a patent?
You can apply for a patent at the United Kingdom Patent and Trademark Office (UKIPO) website. This office is the one responsible for all federal patents and trademarks. They also handle international patent and trademark issues for the United Kingdom.
You can determine how soon you can begin patent proceedings by using the online patent calculator. The calculator determines when you can file your patent application if you want to own it for the life of the patent (normally 20 years).
Patents cover new ideas, used processes, and inventions. The UKIPO allows applicants to file two types of applications: foreign patent applications and UK patent applications. Foreign patent applications cover inventions that are foreign to the United Kingdom and do not fall within one of the patented inventions classes, which are listed on their website. For more info on how a foreign patent application works, read the guide to filing a foreign patent application.
To file a foreign patent application, find the application online and follow the instructions. You can only file this type of application if you’re a citizen or national of a country that allows foreign patent applications, such as Japan, the United Kingdom, and many European countries.
Assuming the application has been filed, you can then send your application to the UKIPO. After 30 days, the UKIPO will receive the application and begin the patent process. You can continue to use the patent application for another five to seven years, after which your application will expire and be removed from the public patent database.
For foreign patent application purposes, foreign patent applications do not require filing fees. However, each foreign patent application includes a non-patent fee (NPL) amount that must accompany your foreign patent application. NPL amounts vary from country to country.
While the UKIPO does not consider patents to be the property of a citizen, citizen by birth or country of citizenship, the agency does hold patents on inventions by foreign civilians, including students and visiting scientists.
4. What are the benefits of having a patent?
A patent is the only way to legally protect an invention. This gives you the right to prevent others from making, using, or selling your invention. With a patent, you’re also free to license or sell your invention to others. If you start working on a new invention and decide to patent it, you’ll have an edge over your competitors. That’s because if they get the patent before you do, they can usually patent the heck out of it. Patents are important for inventors and entrepreneurs, but they’re almost never helpful for business or litigation, which we’ll talk about next.
You can read patents at any time — and protect them at any time. Patents expire. When a patent expires, no other company is allowed to make or use the invention without your permission. You can renew your patents at any time. If you decide to buy a patent from someone else in the future, you can use it at any time. You’ll lose the protection of your patent if it’s purchased by any other company.
Most patents are only valid for three years after the date that they were issued. If your patent expires before your three-year expiration date, it’s typically considered “expired” and can be used by anyone else. You can extend your patent term even further by filing a new patent at the same time as an old patent would have. To get a new patent, you have to go through the normal patent application process. This could take several months and expensive legal fees. Depending on the type of application received, you may have to go through an extra examination or pay to use another person’s examination. A patent can be especially valuable if anyone else tries to make or sell similar inventions without your permission.
Patents protect important inventions and give inventors exclusive rights and options for using them. But at what price are they worth your time and money? Here are some of the costs of applying for and using a patent.
Commonly cited as overhead expenses, this is the cost of hiring patent attorneys.
5. Who owns the patent once it’s applied for? The inventor or the company they work for?
If the inventor is an employee of the company, then the patent will belong to the company. If the inventor is an outside contractor, then the company will have to negotiate with the inventor to secure the rights to the patent.
A patent protects ideas, processes, and materials. Patent applications are a type of written application that lets others examine your invention. Before a patent may be granted, you must make sure the claims in your patent are supported by valid scientific evidence.
There are three basic categories of claims for a patent:
Nature of invention is critical to any patent. You must identify your invention and state how it works, who invented it, when they invented it, and whether they did so by original invention or through something else. These are common detailed claims in patent applications:
claim category: claim reference Claim: a claimed invention is musical, commensurate with the claim reference Claim type: Res claim [i.e., claim number or claim description] claim reference Claim type: Technical claim
Whether you can patent your invention will depend on three complex questions:
All of these questions will contribute to your total scope of protection, known as the in scope. It refers to the set of inventions that you can protect in your patent portfolio. The larger the number of inventions that you can protect in a portfolio, the fewer IP applications you will need to file.
The total number of applicable patents is limited by an exclusive remedy — an exclusion or limitation on others’ use of your patented invention. The patent owner has the right to stop other companies from making, using, selling, offering, or importing their inventions. An example of an exclusive remedy is a patent pool.
The patent owner may also seek a civil judgment, known as the patent case. This gives them the right to bring an action in court against anyone who infringes their patent.
To determine whether you need a patent, you first need to understand how they work.