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Insights for Entrepreneurs

How to Patent Ideas and Protect One’s Self from Patent Trolls

Understanding how to navigate the process of obtaining a patent from the UK Intellectual Property Office and getting protection from those who might steal an original idea is important in order to profit from your hard work and intellect. Although the following is not a definitive guide on the UK patent process, this information provides the reader with a good foundation of knowledge to help them navigate through the process and earn a valuable patent.

What Can be Patented?

Under current UK patent law, one may obtain a patent for an idea (or invention) that is a new invention, either based on a new way of doing things or an existing idea or process. Simply modifying something already in place may not be enough to earn a patent; an inventor need to discover a process, object or way of doing things that is unique and solves a problem (i.e. build a better mousetrap).

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Be aware of the list of things that one cannot patent under UK law. This list of things that cannot be patented includes artistic works of a dramatic or literary nature, medical treatments or diagnosis of a disease or medical condition, types of seeds, plants and animals, different ways of doing business (although an improved or different manufacturing process may be patentable), and certain computer programs.

Perform a Search of the Idea and File Your Application

It is worth the time to perform a search to determine if a seemingly original is something that has already been patented. Tools available include search engines, although many inventors and entrepreneurs opt to hire a patent firm or attorney to help determine the uniqueness of an idea. Once the determination is made an idea is original, the process begins by creating a prototype, drawing or detailed description of the idea. Be sure to describe, in vivid detail, what it is original about the idea, what it does, how it works and how it makes life better or easier for the user.

The application process for filing for a patent with the UK Intellectual Property Office can be daunting for first timers who have never done so in the past. It is usually advised to seek the expertise and experience of someone who is knowledgeable in the process and can best help an inventor or entrepreneur navigate through the bureaucracy.

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What to do About Patent Trolls?

A patent troll is a person or group who pursue (or threaten to pursue) litigation against would-be inventors in exchange for licensing fees or other forms of pay-offs. A troll may amass a patent for an idea that is similar to but not quite what an inventor envisions, however as the holder of a similar patent, they may use the threat of litigation as a way to profit from real intellectual property.

Inventors can avoid some of the problems created by trolls by documenting their work and providing a detailed diary of how it was conceived. Working with an experienced patent attorney or firm may also help reduce the risk of an idea being exposed to those who may otherwise seek to profit from other’s labour. The more attractive an idea is, the more likely a troll will want to exploit it for their personal gain. Taking the time and spending the necessary monies to patent a worthy an original idea is well worth the effort in the long run.