patent protects your invention and lets you take legal action against anyone who makes, uses, sells or imports your invention without your permission.

A patent doesn’t keep your invention secret. In return for the legal protection you get, you share how to create or replicate your invention with the public. When your patent expires, other people can then make and sell your invention.

You can only apply for a patent if you have created something that is inventive, new and useful. A patent can protect innovations like machines, industrial processes, pharmaceuticals and their production methods, computer hardware, electrical appliances and biological products and processes.

You can’t patent, for example, literary, dramatic, musical or artistic works, anything that’s an idea, a way of thinking, a scientific or mathematical discovery.

You have to pay the Intellectual Property Office to apply for a UK patent and the process can take several years before you receive a granted patent.

Many applications never result in a granted patent because they don’t satisfy the legal requirements. Patents can give protection for 20 years provided renewal fees are paid each year.

Getting a patent does not guarantee business success. You should carefully consider how you are going to use the patent and what you will gain from it.

It’s generally your responsibility to enforce your patent and ensure it is properly protected, meaning that any legal action against another party will be started, and funded, by you.

So, you need to make sure that the potential benefit of a patent will outweigh the time, effort and money it takes to get and maintain one.


You should seek legal advice before applying for a patent as it can be a complex and costly process. A patent specification is a legal document and requires specialist skills to draft properly. Only 1 in 20 applicants get a patent without professional help. Your chances of obtaining a useful patent are much greater if you use an IP professional.

Patent attorneys are legally qualified and independently regulated. Some will give you initial advice free of charge. To make the most of this free advice it is recommended that you think about the questions you want to ask beforehand. This will allow you to gain as much information from the consultation as possible.

PatLib Centres cover all areas of the UK. They hold clinics with IP professionals and offer help on a variety of services including patent searching.


The most common mistake made by inventors is to reveal their invention before applying for a patent. If you have made your invention public, you could lose the possibility of being granted a patent.