What is a Patent? Meaning and Application

If you have an idea for a new product and you believe there is a commercially viable market for it; then the next step is to consider protecting your Intellectual Property or patenting it. But what is a patent? 

What is a Patent?

A patent (or patenting) is a protective right granted by the UK (or other geographic regions) Intellectual Property Office for a new invention. The owner of the patent can then (if appropriate) take legal action against the claims of the patent from a non-authorised third party.

The patent application process is often lengthy and can take many months (sometimes years) to complete. The process is also expensive and is likely to cost many £000’s. Only 1 in 20 applicants get a patent without professional help. Subject to the geographic territory you are applying for a patent, you may have to translate the complete patent wording into another language. This could be a considerable additional expense.

If you are successful in getting a patent application granted, (and you may be successful in some territories and unsuccessful in others)  you’ll also have to pay to renew it each year. If your patent is granted in additional territories other than the UK –  you will also have to pay for these renewals in those additional areas.

Should your patent be infringed (another party copying or replicating your idea without your permission) – you have the right to challenge the third party and defend your patent. Depending on how well the patent has been worded, how you have described your Claims, and in what sequential order – you may have to defend your idea through legal channels.

Defending a patent legally – especially if the infringement is from another territory, is likely to be a very expensive procedure.

Who owns the patent?

A patent belongs to the inventor. If the inventor is an employee and he makes the invention in the course of his work, the rights belong to the employer.

What can you patent?

To patent a design, it must fit the following criteria:

  • It must be a new idea – the invention must never have been made public before you apply to the UK Intellectual Property Office
  • It must be capable of being made or used in any kind of industry
  • You must not tell anyone about your invention until your application is filed with the UK Intellectual Property Office

Applying for a patent in the UK

An application for a UK patent must be made at the UK Intellectual Property Office.

It is important to apply for a patent and obtain a filing date as soon as possible. Anything in the public domain before your application’s filing date can be used to show that your idea is not new.

What happens next?

Within a year from the filing date you have to file:

  • Claims defining the protection you are seeking
  • A brief summary of the invention
  • A request for a search with a fee

The search gives you an indication of how likely you are to obtain a patent. The UK Intellectual Property Office will search for documents showing inventions similar to yours.

Eighteen months after the patent application is filed, it is published and available for the public to view. In this time, you cannot prevent anyone from using your invention.

Within six months of publication, you must pay a further fee and request an examination. The UK Intellectual Property Office may then write to you giving reasons why the invention is not new. Sometimes this involves changing the description of the invention or the claims before an agreement is reached. This process can be lengthy.

When the UK Intellectual Property Office agrees that your invention is new and inventive, your patent will be granted. It will be published in the UK Intellectual Property Office’s Official Journal and you will be sent a certificate of proof.

How do I enforce my patent?

The fact that you own a patent will often deter competitors from using your invention.  – on the other side of the coin, however, is it will also fully illustrate in full detail what your invention is. If your invention is being used by someone without your consent you can be able to obtain an injunction to stop them and claim damages.

Which countries are covered by my patent?

A patent granted by the UK Intellectual Property Office only covers the UK. If you are seeking patent protection outside the UK, you must apply separately.

There is no patent available to cover the globe, however, applications for patent protection in a number of countries at once may be made using the European Patent Convention (EPC) or the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT).

Seek legal help

Many people mistake the patent application as something they can do themselves and, more often than not, fail in the process.

A patent specification is a legal document and requires specialist skills to draft properly. Your chances of obtaining a useful patent are much greater if you consult a legal professional.

If you get your patent application wrong at the start, it can be impossible to correct, meaning your application may fail.  It could also mean that the granted patent is less valuable than it could have been.

A patent in practice

CP is vigilant on protecting its IP, with many products protected by UK patents. This also applies in other territories, including Europe, the USA, China, Canada, India – and others.

An example of a successful CP patent is illustrated in the Amazon range of protective and ruggedised cases, which features the patented, moulded-in Amazon Lip that eliminates the possibility of lid displacement when subjected to sideways impact.

As this lip design was a unique invention and highly advantageous and purposeful, it was patented by CP Cases. The Amazon range of products was originally designed to comply with military standards, with customisation options to suit many applications and now widely used in both military and commercial markets worldwide.


If you have any questions about patents, please get in contact with the CP Cases team. You can reach the team at [email protected] or call us on 0208 568 1881.