Can I patent an idea for free?

You have reinvented the pen and anxious to get the production process started.  Slow down.  You may want to start thinking about getting a patent.

Programmes such as Dragon’s Den prove there are thousands of budding entrepreneurs in the United Kingdom waiting to get their ‘eureka moment’ into the public domain.  But how easily can it be achieved?

Can you patent an idea for free?

The answer to this question is you can get “patent pending” status at no cost if you draft and file the patent application yourself. In order for your patent to be examined by the Patent Office there are fees of between £230 – £280 payable directly to the IPO (Intellectual Property Office).

There are further fees to extend your patent to other countries around the world. The high cost associated with patenting an idea are normally the fees of patent attorneys to draft the patent application and amend it further down the line.

Firstly if you do have an idea you must get it protected otherwise you will be kicking yourself when you later see this idea in the business world.  Identify if your idea is an invention, if so we recommend going down the patenting process

Patenting:  What you need to know

If you haven’t already, research your invention in order to ascertain whether it is original otherwise a patent will not be granted.  Discreteness is key – only reveal your plans once the patent has been filed.

This research can be done FREE OF CHARGE at either a public library in your local town that has a patent department or the Intellectual Property Office website (https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/intellectual-property-office), formally known as the Patent Office.

Do you know your market inside out?

You have an idea that you want to patent.  Fantastic!  Have you researched whether there is a market?  Who would be interested in your idea?  Will it solve an existing problem?  Is there anything similar already on the market?

These are very likely to be questions you have already asked yourself and highly probable the reason you came up with an idea to be patented.

Do find out who your potential rivals are and their current market share.

Be clear of what your patent is going to cover

In the patent process you will be asked to provide drawings where applicable and explain in detail the workings of your idea.  If there are any costs involved, include these too.  If electrical, specify this.

You can patent an invention yourself and will cost between £230-£280 (initial filing to the patent being granted).  The process can take up to thirty three months to complete but for the same price a fast track system is available (patent process reduced to twelve months).

Drawing up the relevant documents can be daunting for many.  It is not surprising why lots of individuals choose a patent agent to act on their behalf.

The cost of an agent can vary depending on the complexity of the invention.

The patenting process can be complicated but a necessity to secure your business future.  If you can obtain a patent it is the preferred method for securing your idea but other forms of intellectual property protection may be available.  A professional who has the experience and expertise can guide you in the right direction.

A patent in four steps

In simple, easy to follow timeline is provided below that will run you through the steps (in order) you need to follow in order to obtain a patent:

STEP ONE:  SEARCH YOUR IDEA TO SEE IF A PATENT ALREADY EXISTS

It is important you carry out a worldwide search and not just a UK search.  This is a sensible first step to carry out before you even attempt to file an application.  As previously explained just because you have an idea and you cannot see it on the market it does not mean that someone has already had the exact same thought process.

STEP TWO: DEVELOP YOUR IDEA

Define your idea as if you were writing a novel.  You may find that it is not possible for you to patent the whole idea but you should be able to protect the overall concept.  Your patent search (step one) may identify that you will need to develop your idea further so it does not infringe on any existing patent in place.

STEP THREE: DRAFT YOUR PATENT SPECIFCATION

After completion of steps one and two you are now in a good position to document your patent and file it with the IPO (formally known as the UK Patent Office).  It is recommended you include any research you have carried out and illustrations where applicable.

STEP FOUR: FILE YOUR PATENT APPLICATION

To ensure your specification is accurate and complete it is advised to obtain the assistance of a professional to act on your behalf that will also follow up on any questions.  An application can take years before it is granted, and will be in force (hopefully) for up to 20 years.  After 12 months from first-filing your application should be formalised with professional legal help.

For more information on applying to the IPO click here

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