When should I consider registering a patent?

Launching a new product can be one of the most exciting steps that any business can take. It can mark the culmination of months or even years of meticulous planning and preparation.

So imagine discovering a rival offering an almost identical product just a few weeks after your launch. You suspect that your designs have been copied. It is a scenario that every business dreads.

Registering a patent can help to protect one of your greatest assets: your intellectual property. Applying for a patent not only helps to deter would-be rivals from copying your idea, but perhaps more importantly, it gives you protection and rights under the law.

When a patent is applied for, patent attorneys draw up a specification for the product, allowing it to be filed with the patent office. They will also undertake a series of searches for similar designs, helping to establish whether a patent can be applied for and also identify whether any similar designs currently exist in the market.

In the UK, all patents are registered with the patent office, meaning that if a rival has copied your design then it can be extremely difficult to defend their actions in the courts.

If the design is found to be unique then a patent will be granted. This effectively prevents any other business from copying your design. Some organisations choose to file patents at every level of development, often regardless of whether or not the company is planning to further develop the technology. This is often done to try and make it difficult for a rival to produce a similar product without first negotiating use over the design.

In some cases it can also be possible to enter into arrangements to licence your product, potentially developing new avenues of generating revenue. In some business sectors, this is quite a common practice, as one technology may be dependent on another. It can therefore offer a chance to generate additional revenue from the research and development work undertaken by your business.

It is worth remembering that if your design is successful then it is likely to attract rivals, so start considering ways to protect your ideas from the earliest possible time – helping to save you both time and avoiding what can often be lengthy and expensive court room battles.

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