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How to Apply for a Patent to Protect Your Idea

A Patent Application
This page explains how to get a patent. If you need to know more about patents and protecting ideas have a look at our protecting ideas page. It includes some great videos from the Patent Office.

Applying for a Patent is something that you can do yourself but it is important to get the details right. There are some important steps that you must take to be successful. This is a summary of the main points but you should always take professional advice from a CIPA recognised Patent Attorney if you are not sure what to do.

Join our free Enterprise Service if you would like more advice. Just click the free pack button above.

Cost of a Patent

The minimum cost of a UK Patent in fees to the Patent Office is £310 for an online application. This can increase if you defer some of the charges, make a postal application, or if the patent application is very complex. The basic fee is made up like this:

£60   Initial Application (£75 if not paid immediately)
£150 Initial Search Fee
£100 Substantive Examination Fee

Each of these fees increases by £30 for a postal application.
There are additional charges of £20 for each Patent Claim over 25 and £30 for each description page over 35. For a full list of the fees click here Patent Office Fees

In addition to these basic fees you may need to employ a Patent Attorney to prepare the documentation. You should do this if you are going to invest a significant amount of time and money in developing your idea. Otherwise you risk having a weak patent that could be challenged or avoided. The cost of an Attorney will vary depending on the idea but it is likely to cost around £3,000 for a typical simple patent.

It is not necessary to commit to all this up front. After the initial application, which can be just a basic description of your idea, you have up to a year to decide on the next steps. You don't even have to pay the initial fee, although there is a small surcharge if you delay paying it.

One of the things that you must do before investing time and money in this process is to get a thorough patent search done. We provide a free patent search tool as part of our Enterprise Service that can be used for a quick look for any similar ideas. We can also provide a full worldwide patent search and report for a fixed fee of £299. This report will tell you about any similar ideas that we find and lets you plan to avoid infringing them and make your own application stronger. To join the Enterprise Service, which is free, and get an information pack sent to you click here.
 
The key steps are:
  1. First decide that a Patent is the protection that you really need. There are other forms of protection that may be more suitable and easier to get. Our page on protecting ideas explains more. Always keep your idea secret by using Confidentiality Agreements. You can get one free from the Enterprise Service.

  2. Do a Patent Search to make sure that the idea has not already been patented. Do not assume that your idea is unique. It could be nearly two years before you get a definite answer from the Patent Office and if you go ahead without finding out you could be wasting a lot of time and money. We can carry out a thorough worldwide search for you as part of our Enterprise Service.

  3. Complete the application forms from the Patent Office. They need to include a description of your idea, labelled drawings, the claims that you are making about your invention and a summary of the idea called the abstract. If your patent is granted then it will run from the date of your application. This is known as the Priority Date. If someone submits the same idea after you, their patent may not be granted. You may need professional help from a Patent Attorney to write the claims for your idea, especially if your idea is complex.

  4. Research the market and if necessary talk to potential manufacturers under a Confidentiality Agreement whilst you are waiting for your application to be processed. You may need to modify your application or even submit a new one depending on what you find.
     
    The Patent Process

     -  The process of getting a patent has the eight main steps described on this page.

    -  Until the Patent is granted or refused you can describe your idea as 'Patent Pending'.

    -  If your patent is granted it will be backdated to the date that you applied.

    -  A UK Patent gives you an exclusive right to sell products based on the idea in the UK. For similar rights in other countries you must get a patent for each country, but you can use the UK application to apply for them.

 
The Eight Steps to Getting a Patent
  1. patent applicationPrepare a Patent Application. It contains a Description of the Idea, Drawings, a set of legal Claims and an Abstract that is a brief summary of the idea. There are rules and guidelines about how to do this and the rest of the process are on the Patent Office web site. If you want to see a typical patent application from one of our companies click the picture.

  2. Send your completed application to the Patent Office (Intellectual Property Office or IPO) together with form F1 'Request for Grant of Patent'  which you can get from the Patent Office via our Patent Office Guides page.
     
  3. The Patent Office will acknowledge receipt of your form and confirm the 'filing date' of your application. You will also be sent an invoice for the application fee of £60 but you do not need to pay this unless you proceed. If you pay it later the fee will be £75. Nothing will happen to your application until you complete the next steps which you must do within approximately twelve months or the application will automatically lapse.

  4. Complete form 9a together with the Application Fee of £60 and a Search Fee of £150 and send it to the Patent Office within 12 months of your filing date.

  5. The Patent Office will examine all your documents and if they are correctly completed they will conduct a 'Preliminary Search' and send you the results within four months. This search will tell you amongst other things whether they consider your idea to be a new idea.

  6. The Patent Office will publish your application within 18 months of your initial application unless you withdraw it. When it is published it goes into the Public Domain and from then the idea cannot be patented by anyone else but it does not mean that your patent will be granted. If you are considering changing your patent or improving it then you must withdraw your application before it is published.

  7. Within six months of publication complete Form 10 and send it to the Patent Office requesting a 'Substantive Examination' 

  8. If your idea meets all the requirements for a patent the Patent Office will confirm it and send you a Certificate.

    Join our free Enterprise Service if you would like help with this process.