Applying for a patent in the UK
When a patent is filed in the UK Intellectual Property Office (Patent Office), an application number and filing date may be obtained immediately. The application will typically be filed with a request for the Patent Office to carry out a search for prior art.
The results of the Patent Office search are usually received 4 to 6 months after the filing of the request. Even if prior art has been cited against the application, i.e. the Patent Office has located documents or other disclosures that may call into question the novelty or inventiveness of your invention, no amendments have to be filed at this time, although optionally the claims can be amended.
The application publishes 18 months after the filing date (or priority date if there was an earlier filing from which priority was claimed).
A request for examination must be filed no later than 6 months after publication.
The application must be in order for grant within 4 ½ years from the filing/priority date, or one year from the date of the first examination report (whichever is later), otherwise the application is refused. Renewal fees are payable annually after grant of the patent.
It is possible to accelerate the search, publication and examination stages, either together or separately. In some circumstances it is possible to get a patent granted within 12 months from the filing date.
Click here for a flow chart setting out the application procedure in the UK.