A patent is a right granted by the government to an inventor for protection of his invention from being copied by others. A patent gives the owner the right to exclude others from making, using, selling, or importing an invention that he has invented. It also gives him the right to use his invention himself. The period of protection given for a U.K. patent is 20 years (from the date on which the application for the patent is filed). Patents are available in most countries throughout the world that have signed and adhered to an agreement known as "the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property."
1. What is a Patent?
A patent is a set of exclusive rights granted by a sovereign state to an inventor or his or her heirs for a limited period of time in exchange for public disclosure of an invention. An invention is a solution to a specific technological problem and is a product or a process. Patents are a form of intellectual property.
Before an inventor can secure a patent in the United Kingdom, he or she must file an application for patent in a U.K. federal patent office. Patents are reviewed by the United Kingdom Patent and Trademark Office (UKIPO) and are granted after extensive study of documents and in-person interviews with qualified patent examiners. If an invention is deemed to be important to the public good, the UKIPO will issue a patent.
Prior to the early 20th century, patents were granted by individuals or corporations acting on their own initiative. However, in 1831, Congress passed the “Patents Act of 1790” to modernize patent laws in the United Kingdom by establishing a centralized system for the grant and protection of patents in the United Kingdom.
The patents act streamlined the patent process by:
Patents not granted by the new system have largely survived as historical relics and are re-licensed by third parties.
A patent is an abstract idea, which means that there is no concrete definition for how to patent an idea. The UKIPO will often make reference to the 1901 BEIS Guidelines which outline specific elements of invention, such as novelty, necessity, and abstract idea. However, according to Bess Bros., Inc., “the term abstract idea is a term that has existed since the 1880s, when it was given an original source in the DIM-G I patent specification issued by the English patent office.”
While inventions that result in new goods or processes that remain in use for a long period are generally regarded as inventions, patents cover inventions that create new, marginal products.
2. How to get a patent
Before you spend thousands of dollars on a patent, ask yourself if you’re likely to be able to enforce it. If the technology isn’t patented yet, it’s likely that someone else is working on the same technology.And if you get it patented, you’ll have less incentive to steal it.
Protecting Your Patents
The reason why a patent has an absolute right to protect your invention is because it’s that valuable. That right is not unlimited however. If someone else gets the idea first, they can simply take it and make something even better. There probably aren’t many people who are going to trademark “free beer” because of a monopoly on physical beer, but it doesn’t mean that’s the end of the world. Same goes for patents.
If someone else can make your invention before you can and they sell it for a higher price, you’ll be out of luck. How do you protect yourself against someone who obtains your next great invention before you can? By securing a long term royalty for yourself or your business. A long term royalty protects you in case someone else wants to make a cheaper version of your invention.
If someone else had the idea first, they’d have to pay you for it. You can’t just stop them from copying your idea, but you can demand that they pay you for it if they want to use it. Your royalty will generally be based on the original cost of the thing that you have improved or invented.
As you can see, a patent has certain inherent uses. It was developed as a way to give the inventor exclusive rights to sell his invention so that... “after the patent expired, the right of use (a.k.a. monopoly) reverted back to the inventor.”
In practice, it’s more difficult to part with an existing patent because it sounds like it’s more valuable than other forms of intellectual property.
3. When to get a patent
If your idea is patentable, you should get a patent as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the more likely it is that someone will copy your idea. It’s a good idea to have a patent attorney help you with your patent application.
Some other important points about patents:
Patents grant a copyright protection for a specific work for a set length of time (notice how our copyright lasts for a very specific term).
A copyright gives other people the exclusive right to use your original work in certain ways. For example, the owner of a copyright can restrict anyone else from:
Making copies of your work (even if you give them the original)
Using your material in advertising, public performances, and quotations (for example, in a news story)
Reproducing the content online in any way (that includes renting it, posting it online, downloading it, and ripping it to your hard drive)
If there is ever a lawsuit challenging your copyright on your original work, you basically have to convince a judge that the other guy is wrong and that their use of your patent is illegal. All other things being equal, winning a lawsuit challenging your copyright is extremely difficult because the other person has much better might than you do.
Finally, we should mention the interesting fact that the amount of time that a person has copyright as against the time that a person owns a copyright is not the same. Suppose for example that Mark wants to write a book about the history of pancakes. He could make all of the pancakes himself in his kitchen (he might even have a few made to his specifications), but that doesn’t mean that he has copyright over the works of others. The law states that someone who uses the valuable expression “pancakes” as he shall have it without limitation may not get copyright protection for making them.
4. How much does a patent cost?
The cost of a patent varies depending on the type of patent you’re looking for. For instance, a provisional patent typically costs $500, while a full utility patent can cost anywhere from $2,000 to $15,000. You can save some money by filing a provisional patent first, then a non-provisional patent later.
But the best way to protect your innovation with a patent is to protect it with a strong patent portfolio. Patents certainly give you some protection for that invention, but they don’t guarantee that others are never going to copy your ideas or property. A strong patent portfolio will help establish you as an original thinker – and protect your investment of time and money in those ideas.
Good Patents & Good Trumpets
Patents do protect intellectual property. But they don’t specifically protect ideas or property. They protect certain known methods of connecting things, called "technical compounds."
So before you take the plunge and file a patent, do the following things to make sure your idea is worth protection:
Know What You Want a Patent For?
First, determine what you want a patent for.
Is it sales, marketing, customer acquisition, brand awareness, or publicity? Patent attorneys often earn a hearing for patents that relate to marketing, sales, or publicity when filed by their clients.
A patent doesn’t protect the ideas itself. A patent isn’t danger-signaling at all. Whether or not displayed, a patent tells competitors, researchers, and the general public what you believe to be valuable about your product (patents are especially popular for Siri, Google Glass, and intelligent personal assistants, including Amazon Echo). As a business person (and someone who likes having a patent), I LOVE to give my products new names and new functions every few years! Patents can help with that.
Keep Patents in Mind as a Business Owner
Second, keep your ideas and inventions away from competitors, researchers, and whomever else has a strong interest in your idea and your product.
5. Common mistakes people make when getting a patent
There are many mistakes that people make when applying for patents. If you’re planning on getting a patent, avoid these mistakes: 1) Failure to do a proper patent search. Before filing for a patent, you should do a thorough patent search to make sure that you’re not infringing on a current patent or patent application.A patent application gives the holder of it rights to restrict use of the invention, which later allows others to restrict the use of your invention. A patent search ensures that no one else has used your invention. If you get approved for a patent and find that your previous patent does not prevent others' use of the same idea, then it’s time to re-apply for a different patent.
2) Filing a patent application based on an invention that you haven't actually made or used. A patent application is only valid for 30 days after the filing date, so if you file it based on an invention that you haven't actually made or used, then the patent expires after 30 days. There are many reasons why an inventor files a patent application — fear of having someone else make or use an innovation later, to guard against intellectual property infringement by competitors, to protect an invention from being stolen or copied, and so on. But if an invention is invented, how could you be sure that you actually invented it? If you can’t say with certainty that you invented it, then you need to have a patent. 3) Filing a patent application based on a very general statement of invention. If an invention only exists in the inventor’s head, then how can you expect others to understand exactly what your invention is? Before filing for a patent, you should do a thorough patent search to ensure that you are not infringing on a current patent or patent application. 4) Filing for a patent based on images, speculations, or metaphors. Before getting a patent, you should do a thorough patent search to make sure that you aren't infringing on a current patent or patent application.