Legal Talk 11: Do I Need a Patent?
It's almost the weekend!
You suddenly text me, "Hey Legal Coach, can you just say something about patents? I read in the Evening Standard that I should be doing something on this. What should I do?"
I’d be more than happy to help! Patents are very complicated, but I email you with the bare bones:
1. What can I apply for? You can apply for a patent if you have something which is completely new, i.e. no one has actually done this before. This is obviously a tall order because a lot of things have been done before. So, when you look at patents it is often to do with patenting small improvements to existing technology rather than patenting something completely new.
Remember, and this is key, if you are thinking of patenting something then you can't disclose it to the public before you get your patent application in. Otherwise, when you apply for a patent the patent office might say that this technology has already been done because someone has done this and put it out into the world already.
Also, according to the rules, patenting computer programs is not allowed although there are plenty of legitimate ways around this restriction.
2. How long? If you do have this magnificent improvement that you want to patent then it's going to take quite a long time to do. Ball park around a year and could take a few years, there are lots of processes involved.
3. How much? Initially putting in a basic UK patent application could cost a few thousand pounds in patent office fees + patent agent fees; typically, around GBP£2k - 4k. However, where costs start to mount is when you start to deal with queries from the patent office and try to progress the patent towards registration.
4. Patent pending: when you put in a patent application you can get patent pending status which means that you haven't got a patent yet but you might (and I emphasise might) get a patent registered sometime in the future. Anyway, people sometimes tend to apply for a patent and then drag their heels because they don't want to incur costs. However, in the meantime they put patent pending on the product as a deterrent to others and hope that people won't really know the difference between patent pending and getting a patent registered.
5. Do I actually need a patent? It depends. If you want to put in a patent for fast moving technology where next month it will be out of fashion and everyone will have moved on then there’s no point getting a patent because if and when you get the patent (in years to come) your patent will be unnecessary.
On the other hand, if you apply for a patent now and get patent pending status then you might be able to scare people off copying your technology by using the patent pending wording. So, you might think that putting in a patent application is worth it just for this ability to use patent pending wording.
Also, by putting in a patent application you could try to impress investors and get further investment or new investment by making out that you have some fantastic technology.
I look through my notes. There is a lot more that I can share. But this is it for now. However, if you do want to do a bit more background reading, I highly recommend this link: https://www.gov.uk/topic/intellectual-property/patents. I await your next communication. As always, thinking of how I can help you on the legals.
Your Legal Coach
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