How to Protect your Intellectual Property

Patent Knowledge – How to Protect Your Intellectual Property 

If ever you want a quick smile, search for weird patents on the web. You’ll soon be confronted by gems such as Edward T. Oliviera’s ‘date hat’, designed to prevent boys asking a girl out if she was already spoken for, and L.G. Macauley’s road lantern, which you could cleverly balance on top of a horse’s head using a special cap that attached to its bridle.

Ridiculous as some patents now seem to us, there’s a very important aspect to patenting new ideas and inventions. You only have to look at the success of companies such as Dyson, which has made a fortune by reinventing household appliances like vacuum cleaners and hair dryers. The fact these inventions are patented prevents competitors stealing the designs and making money from them.

So if you have an original idea, it’s a good idea to get it patented. But how do you go about it? This quick guide shows you what you need to know.

  1. Make sure your idea is unique

First of all, you have to be certain that your idea is truly original, otherwise you will not be granted a patent. Your first port of call should be the Intellectual Property Office’s Patent Information and Document Inspection Service – an online database of UK patent applications.

If your search reveals that your idea has not yet been patented, then you can start the patent application process.

  1. Keep your idea secret

Once you are certain your idea is unique, the most important thing to do is keep it secret until you file your patent application – otherwise you run the risk of not being granted a patent, or that someone else will patent the idea before you do.

If possible, avoid talking to anyone else about your invention and, if it is absolutely necessary, ask them to sign a confidentiality agreement first. Also avoid publicising your invention or making any public demonstration.

  1. Get professional advice

Before you file for your patent, it’s vital to seek professional advice. Talk to a patent attorney or an intellectual property advisor, who will advise you whether a patent is the best protection for your idea. If they agree that it is, they will help you prepare your application.

  1. File with the Intellectual Property Office

In theory, you can file your patent application yourself – but the Intellectual Property Office advises against it, pointing out that your chances of obtaining a useful patent are greater if you use an attorney or advisor. Your application will include a written description of your idea, drawings, an abstract of important technical aspects plus precise legal statements that define your invention.

  1. Apply abroad 

If you want your idea to be protected abroad, you need to apply for patents in relevant countries. If you do this within 12 months of filing in the UK, you can claim the ‘priority date’ of the day you filed your UK application. That means if another application is made for the same invention elsewhere, yours will be awarded the patent because it has the earlier ‘priority date’.

  1. Keep your patent renewed 

If your UK application meets all the requirements of the Patents Act 1977, you will be granted your patent. But if you want to keep enjoying its protection, be sure to pay renewal fees each year to keep it in force. The amount you pay in renewal fees increases each year, keeping your costs lower in the early days of marketing your invention.

Of course, if your invention doesn’t succeed in the marketplace, it may be sensible to let your patent lapse. Something tells us the inventor of the ‘date hate’ did just that!

If you’d like any help with the patents process, please do get in touch – we’d be happy to point you in the right direction and tell you how you may be able to apply a lower rate of Corporation Tax to profits earned from your patented invention!

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