Frequently Asked Questions

I believe I have an inventive idea. How can I protect it?

There are various forms of so-called "intellectual property" rights which can be used to protect different types of ideas or inventions. Some forms of intellectual property right require you to register your rights (patents, trade marks, registered designs) and others are conferred automatically after certain steps have been taken (copyright, unregistered design right). For further information regarding the differences between these different intellectual property rights, please visit our "Practice Areas" and "Jargon Buster".

What determines whether I can secure patent protection for my idea?

To secure patent protection your invention, the invention must be new, not obvious in light of any matter previously disclosed to the public before the filing date of the application, industrially applicable and not excluded from patentability. In order for the invention to be regarded as new, it must not have been disclosed to anyone, whether orally, in writing, or in any other way, before the date of application of the patent. It must also not be disclosed in a patent application with an earlier filing date.

I have been told I should keep my idea secret, so when can I tell anyone about it?

If your idea has some technical aspect, it may be patentable. As such, you need to file your patent application before you disclose the details of your idea to anyone out of confidence, otherwise such disclosure could be used to destroy the novelty and obviousness of your invention, thereby invalidating your patent application. Once you have filed your patent application you can disclose the subject matter of your application to interested parties, provided you limit your disclosure to what you have put in your application.

How can a Patent Attorney help?

A patent specification is both a technical and legal document which requires careful drafting by an experienced Chartered Patent Attorney if the protection afforded by the patent is to be both comprehensive and accurate. The same principle applies to Trade Mark applications and Design applications. Further, the law governing Intellectual Property is complex and changing ever more rapidly. As Chartered Patent Attorneys and Registered Trade Mark Attorneys we can offer expert advice to ensure your Intellectual Property rights are best protected.

Can I check whether my idea is new, or whether someone else can stop me using my idea?

Searching for earlier disclosed ideas identical or similar to your own is usually prudent prior to filing a patent application. Such searches can help to establish the likelihood of obtaining protection for your idea, and the scope of such protection. Searches can also be performed to reveal earlier intellectual property rights of others, which could potentially hinder your commercial activities. We offer patent and trade mark search advice for use in establishing whether you are likely to secure protection for your idea, and also whether you will be treading upon another party's toes should you use your idea.

What is a Patent?

When an invention is made, an initial application for a patent for the invention can be filed, to establish a base date for that invention. In the normal course of events, the application is published around 18 months from this base date. A patent will then be granted some time later (3 to 5 years), subject to the invention being new and non-obvious in view of everything available to the public prior to the base date. Patent applications and granted patents having a later base date do not have relevance. A patent specification contains a specific description of at least one working version of the invention, and a claim to the invention. This claim may be considered as an area of territory that stakes out a "claim" for the invention. The scope of the invention is however not limited to the working version specifically described, and can be much wider depending on the wording of the claim. A patent allows its owner to prevent any unauthorised acts which fall within the scope of the staked out patent claim. However, only when a patent has been granted will a valid right come into existence which can be legally upheld in Court against someone infringing that right. To successfully sue an infringer, it must be established that the infringer is performing an act which falls within the scope of the claim. A patent can potentially last for 20 years from its original filing date, subject to annual renewal fees being paid.