You can use a patent to protect an idea. It gives you the right to take legal action against anyone who makes, uses, sells or imports it without your permission.
A patent can also help you make money from your idea. For example, it would mean you could license your idea for a fee – if someone else was interested in manufacturing and selling it.
To be granted a patent, your idea must be all of the following:
- something that can be made or used
- inventive – not just a simple modification to something that already exists
They can only protect your idea for up to 20 years and you'll need to pay a fee to renew your patent every year.
Visit GOV.UK for the full list of information about patents.
Other ways of protecting your idea
Applying for a patent is:
- complicated – only 1 in 20 applicants get a patent without professional help
- expensive – with professional help, applications typically cost £4,000
- a long process – it usually takes 5 years
This means you might want to consider different ways of protecting your idea, such as:
- non-disclosure agreements to keep it a secret before launch – this can provide enough protection if your product is likely to sell for only a short time
- trade marks – if you can create a brand and be first to market
- design rights – if how your product looks (rather than how it works) is important and innovative
Search for a patent
Before applying for a patent, you should check whether one already exists for your idea. You can search for existing patents using the following:
UK Patents Design Journal
The UK Patents Design Journal contains design applications that are newly registered, notices, renewals and changes to the register.
UK Patents Journal
The UK Patents Journal contains UK patent applications that are filed, published, granted, ceased or expired, and European patents that apply to the UK.
Espacenet contains details of worldwide UK patents, owners, filed documents and countries where a patent applies.
You can find more information about searching for a patent on GOV.UK.
Getting a patent for your idea
Find out how to patent your idea on GOV.UK, including:
- what to check before applying
- what you need to prepare to submit a patent application
- what happens after you've applied
- information about patents to protect your idea overseas
The Intellectual Property Office
The Intellectual Property Office is responsible for Intellectual Property rights in the UK. They can advise you about different ways of protecting your idea. You can read the Intellectual Property Office's Patents: application guide.
You can also use the Intellectual Property Office's online service to:
- submit any forms or documents if you have already applied for a patent – called a 'patent pending' (you'll need your UK patent application number to use the online service)
- order an uncertified electronic copy of a published UK patent or patent application for personal reference or research
- request UK processing of an international patent application under the Patent Cooperation Treaty
- search patent decisions following intellectual property disputes
Renew a patent
You must renew your patent on the fourth anniversary of when you filed for it. You then need to renew every year near the 'due date' – the last day of the month in which you first filed.
To avoid late payment fees, you'll need to renew your patent up to 3 months before or within 1 month after the due date. You can renew your patent for up to a maximum of 20 years.
Visit GOV.UK to renew a patent and find out what the renewal fees are.
Change or update your patent
You must tell the Intellectual Property Office if details in the patents register are wrong or you need to change them.
Visit GOV.UK for advice on how to change or update your patent including how to:
- change your patent
- correct your patent
- change personal details
- appoint a representative to deal with your patent or change their details
- change the owner of a patent