Updated: Jan 22
The value of a patent is a reflection of the arduous process to obtain it. What could be considered the ‘holy grail of invention protection’, they are the most robust form of IP for novel creations either in terms of a product or a process. The cost? Expensive. The application? Long. The certainty? Scarce. If you’re just starting out, you have to be very sure that the value of your asset(s) will be instrumental to your success, to justify the input and cost to protect it with a patent!
What does it protect?
The main distinction to be made with a patent vs other forms of IP, is that it protects the function of a product or process, and not the appearance. A patent is only applicable to something that can be made or used, so things such as literary works, a method of business or a scientific theory are not valid.
Is it right for my product?
If your product features a new aspect which is valuable to the function of it, you should begin by identifying whether this type of invention is already registered and protected. Not only to discover whether you qualify, but also to ensure you are not unintentionally infringing on someone else’s registered patent! You can look for patents registered worldwide here.
How are they granted?
Anyone can apply for a patent, but your chance of approval will depend on several factors. Predominantly, the uniqueness of your solution within the context of use. Another requirement is that the proposal cannot be an obvious feature or improvement.
Wait, they’re not global?
Unfortunately not! If you want to protect your product in the UK, Germany and the USA, you are required to file for a patent in each territory. Now you begin to see how the costs and complications rise exponentially. But there is a glimmer of hope – most countries respect an international treaty, to enable you exclusive rights to file a patent in multiple territories. What this means is, you could file for a patent in the UK first, and Germany and the US will entitle you to a 12 month period in which you can exclusively apply within the respective countries.
But another firm can still copy my design?
Certainly, someone else could still replicate, market and sell your creation within other countries. If you were ultimately granted a patent there, you could later enforce your IP collateral upon their violation.
I qualify, what next?
Once you are pretty convinced you have a unique invention, get in touch with a patent attorney to discuss your options. For UK companies, look for attorneys here. Also, don’t dismiss the possibility of a patent if you see a similar invention registered, an attorney may be able to find a unique angle to propose your solution. They’re lawyers – they find ways around things!