What is a patent?
In the next in our series of providing a short overview on the different kinds of IP rights, we are reviewing patents.
Patents protect inventions for a period of 20 years (provided the appropriate renewal fees are paid). The invention must be new and include an inventive step (i.e. not be obvious to an expert on the subject matter of the invention). There are other exceptions to obtaining protection, for example, a method of medical treatment cannot be patented nor can a way of doing business. Patents protect how things work, what things do and how they do them, generally speaking.
If you are granted a patent via the Intellectual Property Office (in the UK), you will have the exclusive right to sell the patented invention and you can potentially bring action against people selling, making or importing the patented invention without your permission.
Unlike trade marks, it is not possible to apply for a European wide patent, but there is a procedure to apply for protection in different European states. This could be very useful if your business sells its products outside the UK.
One very important point to note is that if you disclose your invention before you apply for a patent, there is a chance that this disclosure will prevent you obtaining a patent. Patents are only granted to completely new inventions and by disclosing information about it before the application for a patent, in some cases, the invention will no longer be deemed to be new. It is important that you take legal advice if you are considering applying for a patent but feel you need to disclose information about it before the application, e.g. to prospective investors. Appropriate confidentially agreements should be entered into before any kind of disclosure.
If you would like any more information about the subject matter of this blog, please contact Emma Hayward.