How to apply for a Patent for the UK

The Intellectual Property Office
Crown Copyright: reproduced with kind permission of the IPO

Jane Lambert

29 June 2019

There are three ways to apply for a patent for the United Kingdom:
Applications to the IPO
Those who seek patent protection for the UK alone or the UK and a small number of other countries tend to apply to the IPO.  The procedure, which is relatively fast, straightforward and inexpensive, is set out in the guidance, Patents Step by Step. which was published y the IPO on 5 Feb 2015.  If you have any queries you can call me on 020 7404 5252 and I will explain it to you.  If you live in the Noth of England or near London I can fit you into a free 30-minute slot at one of my pro bono clinics at Barnsley Business Village, Sheffield Central Library or 4-5 Gray's Inn. If you call the above number, one of my colleagues will give you full details. You can also attend an IP clinic organized by the Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys.  

Instructing a Patent Attorney
I do not file patent applications because I am a barrister and not an attorney. My job is to advise patent attorneys and others on difficult points of law, draft legal instruments for use in litigation or business and represent attorneys and others in hearings before the courts, hearing officers and in negotiations. I can, however, show you how to select an attorney and I can also give you the names of up to 3 attorneys with whom I have worked satisfactorily in the past.

Applications to the EPO
Those who would like to patent their invention in the UK and several other European, two North African countries and Cambodia are likely to apply to the EPO. Although the patents granted by the EPO are called "European patents" they are granted only for designated states.  There is as yet no such thing as a patent for the whole European Union though we may have patents known as "unitary patents" which will cover the territories of several EU member states.  The EPO publishes a detailed Guide to Applicants: How to get a European patent which I strongly recommend.  Once again, I should be glad to help you either over the phone if it is a short point or by giving you a slot in one of my patent clinics.  I also advise you to consult a patent attorney and I can help you choose one in any of the ways I mentioned above.

International Patent Applications
The UK is party to the PCT.  The WIPO website states:

"The Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) makes it possible to seek patent protection for an invention simultaneously in each of a large number of countries by filing an "international" patent application. Such an application may be filed by anyone who is a national or resident of a PCT Contracting State. It may generally be filed with the national patent office of the Contracting State of which the applicant is a national or resident or, at the applicant's option, with the International Bureau of WIPO in Geneva."

The WIPO publishes The PCT Applicants Guide which it updates frequently and regularly. Essentially, an application is checked once on behalf of all intellectual property offices for novelty, obviousness and utility before it is submitted to individual national offices who will determine whether it complies with local legislation.  Any patents that may be granted pursuant to the international application will be granted by national or regional intellectual property offices.

Once again, I should be glad to advise or assist but I cannot stress too highly the need to consult a patent attorney as early as possible.   If you live in the USA, Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Russia, Spain or the United Arab Emirates,  I should be glad to introduce you to my contacts in those countries.  You may also need an attorney in one of those countries for the second or national phase of the application.

Telephone +44 (0)20 7404 5252

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