How to get your business idea patented
If you're launching a business on the strength of an idea or
concept, considering a patent should be one of your first
While it's not always essential, there are many examples of
entrepreneurs losing out from not getting their product
Patents can protect you when there's something truly unique
about your product.
However, if you've just thought of a new way of marketing an
existing product, or made only slight alterations to one, there's
no need to spend time chasing a patent. You should push ahead with
your business idea free from the financial and time
constraints the patent application process presents.
It's important to remember, even when patents are well drawn up,
they can be worked around and you may regret the effort of tracking
This guide details the time and cost of gaining a patent and
will let you choose if it's something your business needs before
Applying for a patent
When filling out the three forms from the Intellectual Property
Office (IPO), memorably called Form 1, Form 9a and Form 10, you
must include a description of your invention.
This description needs to be as clear and complete as possible.
If you're going to end up in a costly legal battle, or if another
entrepreneur finds their way around your patent, it will be because
of a flaw in its description.
Although you will have opportunities to amend it later on, it's
best to get it as close to right on the first attempt.
You'll need to highlight your 'inventive step' clearly and
clarify this is what you're patenting. Too vague a description will
lead to challenges while not being definite in your invention will
let others benefit from it.
While it's free to start an application for a patent through the
IPO, processing the application through three stages of forms will
cost at least £230.
Then there are renewal fees, which grow year on year, and that's
before you even consider what would happen if someone were to
challenge your patent. If a dispute was not resolved out of court,
it could cost in excess of £200,000.
After the forms are submitted, you have a year to conduct market
research and locate funding. If you do not take any steps within
this year, your application dies.
In this year, you can pay search fees and take your application
to the next stage. This involves examiners checking your
application and searching to confirm the originality of your
Once this search is complete, the final examination will take
place and, after further payments of £170, your patent can be
Throughout the arduous journey, you are recommended to use a
patent agent. These are in a position to ensure the legitimacy and
success of you patent.
In Britain, all patent agents must be on the Register of Patent
Agents and can be found through the Chartered Institute
of Patent Agents.
While this will be expensive, it can be worthwhile in order to
secure the legality and correct wording for your patent. You will
also be advised on if the patent needs to be taken overseas, and
how likely it is your patent will be successful.
Successful application, what's next?
After receiving your patent, yearly renewal fees must be made on
a sliding scale. These start at £50 after the first year and lead
up to £400 for the twentieth and final year.
To put the time into perspective, the whole process could take
up to four and a half years, from the forms originally being
processed, to the patent being granted.
Knowing all this, if you do want to proceed with a patent
application, the important links you'll need are the UK Intellectual Property
Office, the Chartered Institute of Patent Agents.
If you want to carry out some research independently, a good
place to start is the Patent Information Network which can be found
in libraries in major cities.
However, be sure of both your need for and the likelihood
of achieving a patent before investing more of your time and money
in the idea than you can afford.