What’s a Patent?

A patent is a type of intellectual property right that protects inventions. It’s a kind of social contract, the idea is that it encourages people to invest their time and energy into inventing things that will benefit society as a whole – by allowing them a monopoly over the invention for 20 years. An invention can be a product or a process that provides, in general, a new way of doing something, or offers a new technical solution to a problem.

It is really important to know that if you think you have something that could be patentable you MUST keep it a secret for the time being. You cannot patent something that has been put in the ‘public domain’ – so it cannot be shown, demonstrated or displayed at a trade show for example. If you think you may have invented something and might want a patent, continue reading and then get in touch with an expert for advice.

How do I get a Patent?

There are certain criteria that the invention has to reach in order to be patentable. For example:

  1. It must have utility – meaning it must have practice use,
  2. It must be novel – so, it is different from what is already available,
  3. It must have an inventive step – this means that it has to have a level invention that cannot be simply deduced by a person with average knowledge of the particular field.

Applying for a patent can be quite a long and complicated process and there are legal experts who can help you with this. See our find a lawyer page for more help.

More information on patents from the UK IPO here.

Should I get a patent?

Here is a video from the UK IPO talking about patents and when they can be useful…

Image credit: Ewa Luc, Lines, 2017