If you’ve come up with a unique idea or invention, you’ll want to make sure your intellectual property is protected so no one can claim it as their own.
There are four main types of intellectual property protection available, and each offers a different level of protection and is often suited to different types of ideas and products, they are:
Although none of these can actually stop anyone making off with your idea, having protection in place makes it much easier to take legal action against plagiarists.
And it’s vital you get the right type of protection to suit your idea – if for instance, you have an invention in the offing, you’ll want to get a patent for it.
What is a patent?
A patent is a license that gives on the party the exclusive right to make, use, or sell an invention for a set period of time.
What can you patent?
A patent can be used to protect an invention and gives you the right to take legal action against anyone who makes, uses, sell or imports it without your permission.
In order to be granted a patent, your invention must meet the following criteria:
- It must be something that can be made or used
- It must be new
- It must be unique and inventive, not just a modification of an existing product
What can’t be patented?
A patent is the most comprehensive type of the intellectual property, and getting one can be both expensive and time-consuming, taking up to five years to be granted.
So you need to be sure your invention can be patented – to give you a better idea, here is a list of things that can’t be patented:
- Any work of art, literature, drama, or music
- Any rules or ways of playing games, thinking, or doing business
- A medical diagnosis or method of treatment
- A mathematical method, scientific theory, or discovery
- A way to present information
- Certain types of computer programs
- Any biological process, such as cross-breeding plants or animals
Is a patent right for your idea?
If you’re unsure whether or not a patent is right for your idea, it helps to get professional legal advice from solicitors such as FBC Manby Bowdler or Srivastava before you apply. If it is, you’ll then have to take the following steps before you can get a patent:
Patent search your idea – Before you draft and file a patent application you should conduct a worldwide patent search to make sure your idea hasn’t been patented anywhere else. If it has, you won’t be granted a patent, even if your idea is not yet on the market.
Develop your idea – It’s important you have a complete picture of how your invention will work, including all component parts. The results of the patent search might show your idea needs further development so it doesn’t infringe any existing patents.
Draft your patent application – Once your idea has been developed and designed and you’re sure it’s unique, you then need to draft your patent application and file it with the UK Intellectual Property Office (UK IPO), which was formerly known as the UK Patent Office. Due to the language used and the nature of the documents, it’s probably best to have a chartered patent attorney to do this for you and make sure it’s worded correctly so as not to infringe any other patents.
File you patent application – UK Patent filing is carried out at the UK Intellectual Property Office, and applications are often best completed by your Chartered Patent Attorney who will ensure that this has been completed correctly on your behalf.
Once your UK patent is filed you have to wait 12 months before you can expand the application out
the whole process can take as long as five years, but once granted you can be safe in the knowledge no one can steal your idea without facing legal consequences.