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How to protect your intellectual property with a patent

Protecting your intellectual property with a patent is vital to stop third parties from copying, or stealing, your business's inventions or new products. A patent is a legal right that's granted by national governments, protecting the creator of an invention by stopping other people from using their intellectual property without permission.

What rights does a patent give you?

After a patent has been granted, it gives you the right to launch legal action against anyone who makes, sells, imports or uses your invention without your permission. It also gives you the right to license your patented invention for royalties. However, it doesn't necessarily guarantee that you'll be able to make or sell your invention.

Patents take several years to be granted. There is a two to three-year average. However, the examination of the patent could take up to five years to be granted.

Is software covered by patents?

The patenting of software inventions has been a heavily debated topic. Legislation covering this issue is continually being shaped as technology advances. Software inventions are currently considered to be patentable matter in the USA and selected other countries.

It's important to remember that patents are geographically limited, meaning that filing in one country will give you protection only within that country. If you trade on a global scale, you should file patent applications in other countries individually.

International patents

Remember never to discuss your invention with third parties without a non-disclosure agreement being in place. In addition, never publish or disclose your invention anywhere without filing a priority application.

Within 12 months from your priority patent application, you may file an international patent application, covering all Patent Co-operation Treaty (PCT) jurisdictions. This is an international patent law treaty that's been operational since 1970, providing a unified procedure for filing applications.

Eventually, the application must be filed separately in each country where you seek protection. The application must be filed in most countries within 30 months of your first patent application.

European Patent Validation

You can make one patent filing under the European Patent Office, with the examination being held directly with the EPO. When the application matures into a European patent, you can then decide in which of the 38 member states you wish to validate it. This is termed European Patent Validation. It's worth noting that the EP patent doesn't grant protection in all member states. You're required to actively validate the patent in the countries where you require protection. The validations must be carried out within three months of the EP patent grant.

Translating your application

One common question when it comes to businesses with a global market is how to apply for a patent in countries where a different language is spoken. In fact, the translation requirements vary from country to country.

Some countries demand that the entire specifications must be translated. Others require only the translation of the claims into the national language of that country, while some don't require any translation. It's advisable to seek professional help to understand how the process works.

Work has begun on a new filing process within the EPO that would require you to file only one Unitary European Patent in future. Once this patent was granted, it would provide automatic protection in 26 of the EP member states. This would greatly simplify the patents procedure.

If you're an entrepreneur looking to start a new venture based on an idea or invention, take a look at this infographic from Morningside IP that explains how you can protect your intellectual property with a patent.

Kat Kynes, Head of Content at Firecask

Image Credit: Shutterstock/Tashatuvango