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Protecting your IP: How to secure a patent

  • Blog
  • 31 January 2017

Key products and inventions can be the cornerstones of your business – unique to you and central to how you operate.

So it’s imperative that you put steps in place to protect them from being replicated by competitors. We explain the importance of a patent and the process of using one to protect your intellectual property.

Protecting your IP: How to secure a patent

What does a patent cover?

Patents are used to cover specific ideas. They need to be:

  • New – not just a change or improvement to an existing idea
  • Something that can be used, made or built

Patents don’t cover literary or artistic work, theories, methodologies or biological processes.

Application process

Being granted a patent begins with the application process. This application is made up of a series of key areas:

Description – explaining how your invention is made and outlining what it does. This section can also include any academic papers which would help to describe your invention.

Claims – legal statements that highlight the different technical features or elements, which you want the patent to protect.

Abstract – an outline of the specific technical aspect of your invention.

Statement of inventorship – this section is applicable only if you’re applying on behalf of a company to secure a patent. Or if you are applying on behalf of a group of inventors who are unlisted as applicants.

You should also include any technical drawings to support your application.

Your application requires fees to be paid. This covers your application and a detailed search to ensure your idea doesn’t violate existing patents. This can cost up to £280. It includes a process known as a substantive examination, which involves an assessment to see how new and inventive your invention actually is. This considers if it is substantially different to existing products to warrant a patent being granted.

As your application is being processed you can mark your invention as patent pending. This denotes to other people that you are in the process of securing the rights to your invention and protecting your IP.

Your patent can take a long time to be granted; up to 5 years. Following your patent being granted, you have to pay a fee each year to renew it. This increases incrementally over the 20 years your patent is valid for, reaching £600 at the 20-year mark.

Protection abroad

Patents are only valid in the country where you have applied for them, so a patent from France isn’t necessarily valid in the UK, for example.

This doesn’t mean you can’t protect your ideas abroad, however.

There are options, including filing applications in the countries where you need a patent, such as filing one with the European Payment Office. This secures your idea in more than 30 European countries. Another option is the Patent Cooperation Treaty, which files your invention for protection in more than 140 cooperating countries.

How is your idea protected?

In the event of a dispute, your patent reinforces your claims against someone infringing on your IP.

It covers all the various technical elements and intricacies of a design and prevents people from capitalising on ideas, which are overly similar to yours.

Dealing with IP infringement begins with contacting the other party with an injunction. This involves asking that they cease and desist any activity that infringes upon your patent.

If this doesn’t work you can pursue stronger legal action for damages, based on their patent infringement, or criminal charges, based on continuing and wilful patent infringement. However, the costs of defending your patent against infringement can be high, which can especially be the case in a competitive sector.

How we can help with patent applications

FSB members are provided with access to a wide range of online legal information and documentation.

This consists of over 200 factsheets and more than 500 legal documents, including documentation which can assist with patent application and IP protection. These documents are downloadable, allowing members to edit them to suit their specific business needs. This includes:

  • Agreements
  • Contracts
  • Forms
  • Letters
  • Notices
  • Policies

If you would like to learn more about how FSB can help with the protection of your invention, or other documentation members can gain access to, please visit our Online Legal Documents page or get in touch with a member of our team.

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