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A patent is a government licence giving an individual or body the sole right to make use of or sell an invention for a set period.

Patents are granted to the owners of patentable inventions.

In order to qualify for the grant of a patent the invention must be new (i.e. must not have been made available to the public), must be inventive and must be capable of industrial application (this means it must be capable being made or used in any industry).

Some things are specifically excluded from being eligible for the grant of a patent. These include discoveries, scientific theories, mathematical methods and aesthetic creations. Computer programs are also specifically excluded but it is now possible in certain circumstances to obtain a patent for these.

The owner of the invention is the inventor unless it has been invented in the course of employment, in which case the owner is the employer.

A patent gives the owner the exclusive right to the patented invention for 20 years. Any person who manufactures, sells, offers to sell, imports, or keeps the patented invention without the patent owner’s permission will infringe the patent.

A patent will only protect the invention in the country in which the patent has been granted. It is possible to apply for a patent in different countries all over the world.

Points to Note

Do not disclose your invention to anyone without first taking advice from a solicitor specialising in IP or a patent attorney

Use confidentiality agreements if collaborating with others

Do not use someone else’s patented invention without first obtaining the owners permission

Overcome inadequate manufacturing facilities by granting someone else the right to use your patent, this ensures an income from the patent

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