How much is a worldwide patent?

There is no such thing as a worldwide patent. Each country has its own patent laws, and ultimately each country has to make its own decision as to whether it will grant a patent. There are some international arrangements (e.g. the Patent Cooperation Treaty, the European Patent Convention) which help by carrying out some of the patent examining functions centrally and these can help in reducing the costs?

To obtain a granted patent in, say, UK, USA, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Netherlands, Sweden and Japan is likely to cost between £30,000 and £50,000. This cost is spread over a period of about 6 years.

It’s very expensive, why should I bother getting a patent?

The answer to this question is in our Patents section.

Is it true that people can get round a patent just by making some minor changes?

No it is not true. However, the scope of a patent depends on the distance between your invention and the Prior Art. For some inventions it is possible to obtain a very broad patent; for others the protection is necessarily much narrower. It is the scope of the Claims which is crucial, and if the patent is well written the claims will be worded so that anybody who uses your invention will infringe your patent.

Why do I need to go to a Patent Attorney?

Can I do my patent application myself?

It is certainly possible to file your own patent application without professional assistance. However patent law is extremely complex, and it is generally recognised that for a patent to be worthwhile, it must be drafted by a professional. Potential business partners are also unlikely to be impressed by a ‘home made’ patent application.

Can I use a Secrecy Agreement rather than going for a patent?

A Secrecy Agreement (also often called a Confidentiality Agreement or a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA)) can be used as an interim measure when you need to talk to others to assess whether your idea is worth protecting. However a Secrecy Agreement of course does not affect third parties so it cannot replace a patent. Secrecy Agreements are also notoriously difficult to enforce.

How long does it take to get a patent?

It can vary between 1 year (the quickest) and 5-6 years. It can take even longer than that in some countries. Although this sounds terrible, it actually often works to your advantage. The invention can be made and sold, and the patent can be licensed while the application is pending. The only thing you cannot do until the patent is granted is to sue infringers.

A pending patent application is more difficult for a competitor to attempt to design around, because the wording of the claims is not fixed, and the competitor will not know exactly what he can and what he cannot do.

How long does a patent last?

20 years, provided the annual renewal fees are paid each year.

I need to talk to some specialists to find out if my idea is feasible, before committing to a patent

Can I do this without ruining my chances of getting a patent?

It is always best to file a patent application before disclosing your idea to anybody who you cannot be sure will keep it confidential. However getting a Secrecy Agreement signed by the people you need to speak to is a way of solving this problem.

Can I get insurance to cover the legal costs of fighting a battle with an infringer?

Yes, there are insurance policies set up to cover the cost of suing an infringer. The policies are quite expensive, and normally the owner of the patent has to bear the cost of obtaining an initial opinion that there is a good chance of success before the insurer will cover the costs.

Who owns Copyright?

Subject to any agreement to the contrary, the author (ie the person who created the work) is the first owner of any copyright, in the United Kingdom. An exception is where a work is created by an employee in the course of his or her employment. In this case, the employer is the first owner of any copyright unless there is an agreement to the contrary. Copyright can be assigned or licensed to others, just like any other intellectual property right.

Are there any grants available to help with patent costs?

A link to information about these awards can be found in our Links section.

Can I just rely on copyright to protect my invention?

Copyright only protects the actual form in which an idea is presented. For example if you were to design a fold-up chair with a new folding mechanism, in the absence of a patent, you would not be able to stop somebody designing a chair with a different appearance from yours but a folding mechanism which worked in the same way as yours.

What does ‘patent pending’ mean... Is it the same as ‘patent applied for’?

Yes, ‘patent pending’ and ‘patent applied for’ mean exactly the same thing. It is highly recommended that one or other of these messages be put on any product on sale which incorporates an invention for which a patent application has been made.

What is the first step to getting a patent?

Make an appointment with Dummett Copp LLP (01473 660600). Bring to that appointment sketches and/or photographs so that you can explain your invention.

Should I register the name I use or the logo or both?

Remember that the object of registering your trade mark is to stop others doing something. Usually the main thing you will want to stop others doing is using a similar name to yours, so where the name can be registered, that is what should be registered first.

But the Company name is registered. Why do I need a trade mark registration?

The Companies Registry (Companies House) is only concerned to see that no two companies are registered with the same name. They have to ensure that each company can be uniquely identified in written documents.

Registration of a company name gives no rights which can be enforced against others.

Registration of a trade mark however gives you the right to stop others from using not only the same, but also any confusingly similar trade mark in respect of the goods or services for which you have registration or goods or services which are similar to those goods or services.

How long does trade mark registration last?

Trade Mark registrations can last forever, provided the renewal fees are paid. Renewal fees have to be paid every ten years.

Can I get a worldwide registration?

Not quite. It is now possible to get a single registration which covers all the countries in the European Union. There is also a system known as the Madrid Protocol which enables you to get protection through a single application in a wide range of countries.

When and how can I use the symbols ™, ® & ©?

Copyright comes into existence automatically. It is customary to draw others attention to this by using the copyright marking which is © [year of completion of the work] [name of copyright owner], e.g. © 2003 Dummett Copp LLP.

Please click here for further information on the use of the following symbols ™, ® & ©