Why do Patents exist?

There are various rationales for patent protection, below are some of the main ones:

  • Patents give incentives for economically effective Research and Development (R&D) by giving a monopoly on the patented invention. This encourages businesses to put millions of pounds into R&D which ultimately benefits the society as a whole.
  • Patents encourage the disclosure of inventions to the public, without the protection of a patent many inventors would prefer to keep their inventions secret.
  • In some industries the cost of actually implementing an invention is higher than that of the R&D, if there was no way of protecting the invention then competitors would simply copy the invention and manufacture it for a fraction of the cost.
  • Due to the exclusive nature of patents, competitors are encouraged to think up so-called 'work around' ideas. For example, they know they cannot use the original invention due to the patent so how else could they come about with the same end result?

Patent Fees

When you file a UK patent in the UK it only provides protection in the UK. If you want protection in a number of countries then, in general, a separate application has to be made in each country in which protection is desired, and the applications filed within one year of the original filing. This means that a considerable investment in terms of filing and translation fees has to be made at a very early stage of an invention. The UK's IPO now offers a fast-track service that enables you to receive search results before the one-year period has expired, which is helpful. Before the one year period expires you can then decide whether or not to file in other applications.

While there is no such thing as an international patent. There are a number of developments designed to make it easier to obtain patent protection in different countries.

The Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) is to eliminate the need for a separate application and search to be made in each country. By December 2007, 138 countries were signatories to the PCT.

The PCT system reduces the number of searches that need to be done (and paid for), and also has the merit of delaying the decision point at which payment must be made and a choice made as to the countries in which to proceed.

Article kindly supplied by Lawdit Solicitors, specialists in intellectual property, internet and e-commerce issues. Lawdit offers discounted fees for all Freelance Alliance members.

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