Patents are monopoly rights granted to owners of the inventive work. Patents protect new and non-obvious inventions with technical features. They can be (subject to some exclusions) machines, processes, products, chemical compositions and other subject matter with technical contributions to the state of the art.

Patents provide you with a means to prevent unauthorised actions and allow you to take legal action against others to prevent them from commercially exploiting your technology. For a product, under UK patent law infringing acts are making, selling, using, importing or keeping the patented product. In other countries similar patent infringement laws apply. After a grant certificate is issued, the proprietor(s) or an exclusive licensee could bring infringement proceedings in a court to enforce the patent against unauthorised acts by third parties.


An invention is patentable if it is new, non-obvious and susceptible to industrial application. New means that the invention does not form part of the state of the art. It is therefore essential to ensure that before a patent application is filed no public disclosure of the invention is made in any way, including by sale, by use, verbally or by publication. Non-obvious means that, at the time a patent application is filed, the invention is not obvious to the skilled person in the art, and thus there has to be an "inventive step".

According to UK patent law, having the invention publicly disclosed would not necessarily render the invention unpatentable, for example, the disclosure is made in breach of confidentiality. Some jurisdictions implement a "grace period", which is a period of time prior to filing a patent application, during which the public disclosure of an invention does not destroy its novelty.

Patent Filing Strategies

We understand that each business is different. Seeking IP protection may be motivated by a variety of reasons that are appropriate to your commercial objectives. Accordingly, together with you, we will design a patent filing strategy that best fits your business plan.

There is a trade-off between describing your invention broadly and specifically. The former would be more likely to be rendered not new or lacking an inventive step in light of existing prior art. In this sense, a narrow patent would have a better chance to be granted in view of prior art than would a broader patent; however, narrow patents make it easier for third parties to "design around" and compete without committing patent infringement. This means that you wouldn't be compensated with license fees or damages due to infringing acts.

If the development of your technology has been completed, and preferably a functioning prototype has been produced, then filing a UK patent application covering the complete product is recommended. After 12 months you can file an international application or directly file a national application in others countries where the protection is sought. 

Trade Secret Protection

It may be more challenging to get patents on some subjects than others, depending on their technical effect. In the case where certain classes of inventions are excluded from patentability as such, and you can keep the invention secret, you have an option of treating such inventions as trade secrets. This avoids a risk of pursuing patent protection whereby if you do not end up obtaining a granted patent, the invention will become public domain as the patent application is published. Trade secret protection has the advantage of involving no registration costs and not being limited in time, and may continue indefinitely as long as the secret is not revealed to the public. On the other hand, the level of protection granted to trade secrets is generally considered weaker than that granted to patents.

Refer to this WIPO page for more info on trade secrets.

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Regulated by the Intellectual Property Regulation Board (IPReg). The IPReg Code of Conduct is published here.

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