You can use a patent to protect your invention. It gives you the right to take legal action against anyone who makes, uses, sells or imports it without your permission. But they are expensive and difficult to obtain (IPO, 2021):
Some patents protect inventions that are completely unique; however most cover incremental changes to inventions that already exist. Patents are usually sought to establish a commercially useful monopoly that is related to one or more products or processes. Patent applications have been used to meet government targets, qualify for tax breaks, as a measure of academic/professional credibility or rank, or for a method of disclosure (defensive publication) (IPO, 2015: 4).
The rules governing what is patentable vary between countries. In the UK:
The invention must be:
You cannot patent:
The drawings show proposed new designs which you can use to see how others have tried to improve on existing product designs or solutions. If your work at the university means you need to protect your own intellectual property, contact the Commercialisation and Contracts team who have experience in doing this through the appropriate mechanisms, such as patenting, copyright, design registration and trademarks. You may also wish to seek advice from the Business and IP Centre at the Library of Birmingham (see below).
The Intellectual Property Office (IPO) advice is to search the internet and, if you don’t find your idea, you should then look in databases of published patents then trade booklets and catalogues. Or you could pay a patent attorney or other professional IP advisor to do a search for you. Most patent applications filed fail to be granted because a similar invention has been published before.
Databases of published patents include:
This contains the bibliographic data and images of more than 80 million patent documents worldwide including online access to the majority of GB applications published prior to 3 January 2007 and GB patents granted after June 2002. Check for published patent applications and registered patents with details of the , owners, filed documents and countries where the patent applies.
The IPO's Online Patent Information and Document Inspection Service lets you check the status and access information on UK patent applications. The Patents Publication Enquiry Service covers all GB applications published and granted after 3 January 2007 and all GB corrected documents published after 1 April 2010.
Using the World Intellectual Property Organization's Patentscope allows you to search 100 million patent documents including 4.2 million published international patent applications.
Google Patents allows you to search and read the full text of patents and applications from around the world.
Business & Learning is part of the national Business & Intellectual Property Centre (BIPC) network based on level 3 of the Library of Birmingham in Centenary Square, Broad Street, in Birmingham. It also works in partnership with the Enterprise for Success programme and receives funding from the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership (GBSLEP) and from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).
Business and Learning provide free events. These offer support for those thinking of starting a business or for those who are already trading and looking for further guidance. This support is made up of one to one advice sessions for both business advice and intellectual property advice as well as workshops and access to a comprehensive range of business resources including databases such as IBIS World, GrantFinder, Creditsafe, Mintel, FAME and COBRA, journals and industry directories and guides.
The Business Library is part of the UK Patent Library Network (PatLibs) and is the one covering the whole of the Midlands. Free, confidential, Intellectual Property advice sessions are one hour in duration and can be booked by telephone on 0121 242 4242.