Ten Frequently Asked Patent Questions.

1. Do I need a Patent?

Short answer, no. A Patent doesn’t allow you to do anything you couldn’t do before; it is by nature a negative right which enables you to prevent other people from working your patented product or process.

2. Why consider Patent protection then?

There are a number of benefits provided by acquiring Patent protection; the main reason is that acquiring a Patent gives you a monopoly right to that patented invention for up to 20 years. Some further benefits are listed below.

Protect your research and development - a significant amount of time and money goes into developing any invention, protecting this investment via Patent protection prevents other parties from reaping the benefits of your hard work. 

Investment - Patents are something which investors are keen to see when deciding whether to invest their money in a company. Having a Patent portfolio can distinguish your company and aid in attracting investment. For example, on the BBC TV show “Dragons Den”, one of the first questions typically asked by the Dragons is “Do you have a Patent?”.

Generate assets - Patents are tangible assets which can be valued, bought and sold. They can thus increase the value of a company and make it more attractive for a potential acquisition.

Tax benefits - there can be reductions to corporation tax paid on the profits of patented products in certain countries. For example the UK Patent box scheme.

3. Is my product innovative enough for a Patent?

It seems to be a common idea that Patents are only granted in respect of new never before seen revolutionary products which have undergone years of extensive research and development by large multinational companies. Whilst this may be true of a very small number of inventions, the vast majority are granted in respect of relatively minor improvements over existing products and processes. You only need one new feature with a technical advantage to obtain a granted Patent. 

Think of Patents almost like smartphones, it’s sometimes hard to tell the difference between the yearly iPhone releases, but each release will have at least one feature which offers an improvement on last years model to entice customers to buy.

4. What criteria does my invention have to meet to obtain a Patent?

The two main criteria that your invention has to meet are novelty and inventive step.

  • Novelty is relatively straightforward as it’s a bit of a spot the difference exercise in that you need one feature which is new with respect to existing products, Patents etc. to possess novelty.
  • To possess an inventive step, that at least one novel feature, has to provide a technical advantage which wouldn’t be obvious to a person skilled in the art of the field of your invention.

Inventive step is quite a subjective test; therefore, I would always recommend discussing with your Patent attorney the advantages of the various features which make up your invention.  

5. Can I obtain a Patent for any product or process?

No, there are certain things which are specifically excluded by law from patent protection. These include:

  • a discovery, scientific theory or mathematical method
  • a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work or any other aesthetic creation whatsoever
  • schemes, rules or methods for performing a mental act, playing a game or doing business, and programs for a computer
  • presentation of information
  • a method of treatment of the human or animal body by surgery or therapy, and a method of diagnosis practised on the human or animal body

One of the most common queries we receive relates to patenting software, in particular, “apps”. One of the exclusions mentioned above is “programs for a computer”, apps and the like typically do fall under this exclusion. However, if the app is part of a system which provides a technical advantage outside of the application itself then there could be a patentable aspect.

Obtaining patents relating to computer implemented inventions is a particular specialty of ours here at FRKelly, therefore, please reach out to myself or one of our other ICT attorneys if you have any queries relating to computer related inventions.

Patents aren’t always the most suitable form of protection available, there are also Trade Marks, Registered Designs and Copyright to consider. We can advise you what form of intellectual property is best suited to your particular requirements.

6. Is obtaining a Patent expensive?

It depends. The ultimate cost of obtaining a patent varies based on a number of factors, for example: 

  • The complexity of the technology being patented;
  • The objections raised by the Intellectual Property Office(s) during examination; and
  • The number of countries within which you wish to obtain patent protection.

Therefore to obtain the most accurate costing regarding a potential patent application please contact us so we can tailor the quote to your particular requirements.

7. Will a larger company simply ignore my Patent and copy my idea regardless?

This is unlikely as it simply isn’t good business practice. For example, the larger the company the worse the PR damage if the company is seen to be stealing individually owned inventions. What’s more likely to happen is that the larger company would seek to acquire or license rights to the Patent. Patents are a form of (intellectual) property and thus can be sold and licensed as such.

8. How long does it take for a Patent to get granted?

This depends on where you have filed your Patent application and the objections which are raised during prosecution. For a UK Patent it typically takes on average around 3 to 4 years to obtain a grant. For a European Patent it can be anywhere from 3 to 5 years on average. The timeline below shows the various stages of a typical Patent application.

9. Does a European Patent give me protection in all of Europe?

No, whilst there have been discussions regarding a Unitary European Patent for a number of years it is unlikely that this will be available anytime soon.

At the minute a European Patent effectively just centralizes examination of the Patent application. As opposed to a Patent application undergoing separate examination in multiple EPC countries, the application is examined singularly by the European Patent Office (EPO), once granted you then pay a fee to each of the EPC countries you wish to have patent protection in, e.g. Ireland, UK, Germany, etc.

10. What about Brexit?

The European Patent system hasn’t been impacted by Brexit as the European Patent Office (EPO) is not an EU entity, therefore, its business as usual for European Patents.

For any queries relating to Patents please don’t hesitate to contact any of our attorneys here at FRKelly.

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