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How to file a patent in the UK

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Do you think you’ve come up with an idea worth protecting? From maintaining exclusive rights of use, to earning a higher return on investments, or attracting the attention of potential business partners, there are countless reasons for an individual or organization to patent an invention. Yet the process itself can be tricky and time-consuming if you’re not fully clear on what you’re doing. 

To have your application granted you’ll need to be able to prove your idea is achievable, useful, and new. It may be worth getting the advice of an intellectual property expert such as Withers, given the British Government advises only 1 in 20 applicants get a patent without professional help

You can read an overview of the patent process here in the UK below to gain a better idea of what’s involved and whether it’s the right move in your situation.

Preparing an application

The first step is in fact to check if your idea has already been patented. Once you’re confident it hasn’t, you can begin work on your application. As a minimum, this document needs to include a description of what your idea is and how it works (or could work), a list of claims outlining the technical features to be protected, and a summary of these features. 

You may also wish to include drawings or diagrams, academic papers, and a statement of inventorship if you’re not the sole inventor.     

Submitting an application

Next, you’ll need to file your application the with Intellectual Property Office (IPO). This can be done online or by post for a small fee. At this stage, you also have the option to file your search and examination requests, which we’ll come onto next. Doing this at the same time you apply can help speed up the process.

Requesting a search and examination

In order to have your patent granted you’re required to request a search and ‘substantive examination’. Both come with fees and deadlines attached, and, in short, are checks carried out by the IPO to confirm your idea is both sufficiently new and inventive and described in adequate detail. Passing the search stage allows your patent to move on to publication, while the examination comes afterward.  

Patent publication    

If your application is complete and passes the IPO’s search, generally you can expect it to be published 18 months later. It will then be available to publicly access. If you haven’t done so already, you must now request your examination within 6 months’ time – yet it can be several years before it actually takes place. 

After application  

Once you’ve applied, you’ll receive a receipt along with instructions of what to do next. You can mark your patent as pending or applied for. If your application passes the examination and is granted, your patent will then be published in its final form. From here it’s up to you to renew, add to, and defend your patent. You can also withdraw it if you choose. 

If it sounds complicated, that’s because it is. Which is all the more reason to lean on a patent attorney or advisor to guide you through the process? 

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