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What is a patent?

If you invent something that you believe to be unique and commercially viable, you will probably want to consider applying for a patent to protect your right to its use. A patent will give you the right to prevent others from manufacturing, importing, using or selling your invention without your permission for a set period of time in the country or countries in which you hold that patent. As the holder of a patent, you can generate revenue by utilising your invention yourself and/or licensing others to exploit it.

You may consider applying for a patent if you invent:

  • a new component or innovative product - eg a new type of lid for a drinks carton which keeps the contents fresh for longer
  • an industrial process or way of making or manufacturing something - eg a new plastic-moulding technique
  • new apparatus or equipment used in an industrial process - eg a new kind of tool for cutting metal

Read a definition of a patent on the Intellectual Property Office website - Opens in a new window.

A patent can be a and can form the basis of a business. But costs can be considerable, it can take a long time to apply for and protection isn't automatic. You can download a guide on patents basic facts from the Intellectual Property Office website (PDF, 4.47MB) - Opens in a new window.

A patent:

  • applies across a specific territory - so if you apply for a UK patent it only applies in the UK - see the page in this guide: where does my patent apply?
  • is valid for a limited period, up to 20 years in the UK - subject to you paying the annual renewal fee
  • can be bought, sold and licensed like any other piece of property - see the page in this guide on how to license your patent

Where a patent may not be appropriate, cost effective or applicable, there are other options to protect your intellectual property. Use our interactive tool to find out the best ways to protect your intellectual property.

If you take out a patent in the UK and/or in the European Union and/or in other countries, it is up to you to defend it against any infringements in that country - by going to court if necessary. See the page in this guide on how to defend your patent.

This content is subject to Crown Copyright

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