A chartered UK and European patent attorney answers the questions we get asked most often . . .
- How long does a patent last?
- Who can apply for a patent?
- How long does it take to get a patent granted?
- Can I get a worldwide patent for my invention?
- What does a patent application cost? and then how much to get to grant?
- Can I file my own patent application?
- I've been told that if I invent a new product, then I should be the owner of the patent application. Is this true?
Q How long does a patent last?
A 20 years from the filing date.
Q Who can apply for a patent?
A The inventor is the owner of the rights in an invention, and if the applicant is not the inventor, then an explanation will need to be given of how the applicant has derived the rights in the invention. Usually this is by virtue of employment, but could be by assignment. Any uncertainty in ownership is best resolved at an early stage.
Q How long does it take to get a patent granted?
A Under normal circumstances in the UK, about 4 years, although this can be accelerated in special circumstances. In other countries, it can take up to eight years to get to grant.
Q Can I get a worldwide patent for my invention?
A Unfortunately, no. Ordinarily you have to file applications in each country of interest within 12 months of a first filing. You can delay this by filing a so-called international (or " PCT") application (PCT = Patent Cooperation Treaty), which can delay the filing of individual national foreign filings up to two and half years from the date of the first filing. This gives more time to assess the commercial potential for the invention before incurring the cost of individual national filings.
Q What does a patent application cost? and then how much to get to grant?
A Costs for drafting patent applications vary widely between attorneys, even for the same invention, so it's worthwhile shopping around. More important than price is having the confidence that the attorney will take the time and effort to understand your invention. We think we are good at this, because of our practical real world experience, and because we keep our overhead costs low, we can offer a professional service at a very cost effective price. The typical cost for us to draft and file a UK patent application is usually in the region of £750 to £1500 plus VAT, but may be more, depending on the technology and complexity. The overall cost of obtaining a granted UK patent (including filing cost) is usually in the region of £1500 to £3500 plus VAT, but again this figure can vary. For the costs of other applications, please contact us
Q Can I file my own patent application?
A You can, but as you might expect, we don't advise it. Most inventors can generally give a reasonable description of the way their invention works, although we often find in discussion that an inventor's view of where the invention lies can change. The crunch comes in drafting claims. The claims are the legal definition of the monopoly. If you get this wrong, you'll end up with a patent that's worthless and you'll have wasted your time and money. Drafting good claims is a skill which only comes with knowledge, practice and experience, and an up to date knowledge of the law, and is what you pay a patent attorney for. Because there is an interplay between the claims and the description, it is usually necessary for a patent attorney to draft the description to ensure consistency and maximise the chances of obtaining a worthwhile patent.
Q I've been told that if I invent a new product, then I should be the owner of the patent application. Is this true?
A Not necessarily.
Ownership of a patent application is only clear in the following circumstances:
- If you are the inventor, and are self employed, then you are the owner of the patent application.
- If you are the inventor and are employed and invent a new product which might reasonably have been expected as part of your duties, then your employer is the owner of the patent application. If that product becomes wildly successful and makes your employer a lot of money, then you may be able to claim employee's compensation.
- If you are the inventor and are employed and invent a new product, but this would not reasonably have been expected as part of your duties, then you are the owner of the patent application.
- If you are the inventor and have entered an agreement regarding the ownership of any inventions made, then the ownership will be governed by the terms of the agreement.
In any other circumstances, ownership of a patent application may not be clear. These may include the following situations:
- An employee invents a new product, but it is not clear whether this would reasonably have been expected as part of his/her duties;
- A contractor or consultant undertakes work for a company and in the course of that work invents a new product and there is no prior agreement in place;
- A student at a university invents a new product using university resources and there is no prior agreement in place.
- More about patents
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