10 Things all businesses should know about Patents
The basic theory of the patent system is the same in all industrialised countries and is very simple. Each jurisdiction, or its personification, grants the inventor an exclusive monopoly for a limited period in his new invention in return for his full disclosure of the invention so that the general public will be able to practice the invention once the patent has expired.
The term ‘invention’ has been given the meaning used in ordinary speech, and an invention is therefore defined as “the discovery or production of some new or improved process or product”.
A patent will only be granted for an invention which meets all of the following criteria:
The invention is new;
The invention involves an inventive step (i.e. it is not obvious);
The invention is capable of industrial application (i.e. it is useful); and which
Is not otherwise excluded by the statutory exceptions to grant.
An invention must not have been publically disclosed before the application for the patent has been filed with at least one patent office.
Once granted, a patent does not give the owner the right to work the invention, but it does give the owner the right to prevent all other third parties without the owner’s consent from doing so.
The owner of the patent is in the first instance, the inventor who is the person or persons that actually devised the invention. However, where the invention was devised by an employee in the course of his employment, the owner of the patent will be his employer.
A patent will remain in force for up to 20 years subject to the payment of an annual renewal fee.
The cost of obtaining a patent will vary and will depend up on the subject matter of the invention (e.g. is it a chemical or pharmaceutical process or a mechanical device), and its complexity. However, an inventor should always seek the assistance of a qualified patent attorney to ensure that the patent application is drafted correctly. A sum of at least £3,000 should be set aside to fund the filing of a simple UK patent application.
The average time to receive notice of the grant of a patent is three to four years from the date of filing at the UK Patent Registry.
A successful claim for infringement of a patent can be made against a third party who did not know he was infringing a patent or that a patent was even in force. In such circumstances, however, the remedies available to the patent owner may be more limited.