Patents protect inventions – applications of an inventor’s discovery of a solution to a practical problem, whether this is a product or a manufacturing process.
Patents are valuable commodities and can be sold, licensed and used as security to raise finance.
A patent is considered by some to be the strongest intellectual property right – the owner has an absolute right to make, use and exploit the invention for 20 years (provided renewal fees are paid). Even someone who independently comes up with the same idea is prevented from using it.
Due to the monopoly power conferred by a patent the requirements for registration are strict – the invention is scrutinised and must be new, show an inventive step, be capable of industrial application and be disclosed with sufficient clarity. In addition, the content of the application is published, which means the information is available to the public. The application process is lengthy and complicated and it is always advisable to seek professional assistance.
Generally speaking, patents are territorial in nature, so registration in the UK will only provide protection in the UK. If patent protection is desired in more than one country, a separate application must be made in each relevant country. There are, however, European Patent and International Patent registration systems.