What is the point of having a UK patent?

What is a patent, and what is the point of having a UK patent?

In the first of our series of Bitesize blogs about UK patents, we discuss: What is a patent and what is the point of having a UK patent?

What is a patent?

A patent is a form of intellectual property right that grants the owner a monopoly on commercialising an invention for a limited period of time. In other words, it allows its owner to stop third parties from making, selling, importing, or otherwise making commercial use of their invention for a period of up to (usually) twenty years. This can, of course, be hugely valuable and allows the person or company responsible for creating the innovation to get a significant head start in the market and ensure that they have ample opportunity to receive a good return on the investment of time, money and resources they put into the R&D that resulted in the innovation.

What can be patented?

I will cover this in more detail in a later blog but, essentially, patents protect technical innovation. This could mean anything from a small technical improvement on an existing device or an improved process for making or doing something, to a major scientific breakthrough or disruptive technology. The basic rule is that your innovation must have at least one novel technical feature that produces some technical advance or advantage over what has been done before (this latter requirement defining the so-called “inventive step”). This inventive step does not have to be huge, it just needs to be something more than an obvious workshop modification of something that has been done before, and it is important not to simply dismiss something as ‘obvious’ too easily – if it has a technical advantage and it hasn’t been done before, then the chances are, it is not ‘obvious’. Always consult a patent attorney for advice on this.

What is the point of having a UK patent?

I am asked this question a lot, and the answer is multi-faceted, but I will try and summarise the main benefits below.

Being able to prevent your competitors from commercialising your innovation obviously represents a valuable business asset. Without a patent, a third party could simply replicate your innovative ideas and erode your market share (and revenue). If a third party does try, in the UK, to commercialise an invention covered by a UK patent, there are legal steps that can be taken to stop them. Court proceedings can, of course, be issued, but this is often a last resort, and the vast majority of patent disputes can be resolved before they get that far.

However, this is not the only benefit of having a UK patent. There are other lesser known or ‘hidden benefits:

(1) If you have a granted patent or even a pending patent application covering your product or process (or part of it), it can act as an effective deterrent to third parties that might otherwise be minded to copy it. This is a hidden and unquantifiable benefit, as you may never know how many would-be competitors your patent has kept out of your market because of your patent rights, but it certainly work in many instances.

(2) UK patent applications are published around 18 months after they have been filed, and this publication of your invention will act to prevent third parties from being able to patent something that is the same or very similar (which, if you are not yet commercialising your invention, could otherwise prevent or severely limit your own ability to commercialise the innovation.

(3) Patent Box tax relief: the Patent Box is designed to encourage companies to keep and commercialise intellectual property in the UK. It allows companies to apply a lower rate of Corporation Tax to profits earned from its patented inventions and can, in many cases, save them significant sums in tax. More information on the Patent Box can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/corporation-tax-the-patent-box.

A word of warning

If you are thinking of patenting your innovation, you must not disclose it to anyone, except in confidence *under NDA), unless and until a UK patent application has been filed.

Need help?

If you have any questions about this, or any other IP matter, please do book a free initial consultation by emailing vicki.strachan@strachanip.co.uk or visit our website at https://strachanip.co.uk/contact/

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