Often, cost is a key factor for patent applications. It can be tempting to save costs at the start of the process by writing your own patent application and applying for a patent yourself. However, making errors in the initial application can cause headaches years down the line. The first instalment of this article (“Should I write my own patent?” – August 2013) touched on some of the points to bear in mind.
Well, should I?
In January 2017, following a ‘freedom of information’ request received by the UK IPO, a spreadsheet of data about patent applications was released. The data relates to the notional success rate of private applicants, compared to applicants who use a representative or patent attorney. This data can be used to understand the approximate success rates of UK patent applications by applicants who do and don’t use a patent attorney, since most representatives are qualified patent attorneys.
So, what are my chances of getting a granted patent without using a patent attorney?
Taking the data for the year 2000, there were 31,690 patent applications filed at the UK IPO. Of these, 7,131 are associated with private applicants (PAs), and the remaining 24,559 are associated with ‘non-private’ applicants (NPAs), i.e. applicants with a representative. The spreadsheet doesn’t split out the NPA applications for direct comparison with the PA applications, but doing the leg-work reveals that 6.6% of PA patent applications filed in 2000 reached grant, whereas 32.8% of NPA patent applications filed in the same year reached grant.
In other words, a patent application from the year 2000 was effectively 5x more likely to grant if the applicant had appointed a representative. Doing the same calculations for the years 2001 to 2010 reveals a similar story – an application with an appointed representative was between 5x and 7x more likely to reach grant, relative to an application prosecuted by a private applicant.
Data for 2011 onwards is too recent to be useful for this sort of analysis. A higher proportion of patent applications filed from 2011 onwards are still pending, and the results could swing one way or the other. However, based on the data for 2000-2010, a similar picture is likely to emerge.
Is this data truly representative?
There are some limitations to the data. In particular, it only shows if the applicant was using a representative at the time that the data was obtained. In other words, if a person began as a private applicant, and later appointed a representative, they would no longer be classified as a private applicant on the UK IPO system (and vice versa if they started with a representative, but later forged ahead alone). In any case, there is still a strong indication that a patent application is more likely to be granted where a qualified patent attorney is involved.
From the spreadsheet, you may notice that the number of patent applications filed at the UK IPO decreased by around a third from 2000 to 2015. This may be the result of patent applications being filed by other routes. For example, it is possible to file a European patent application or an international (PCT) patent application, each of which can (but does not automatically) result in a granted UK patent. The data probably only relates to UK and PCT applications, and not European applications, since the UK IPO does not deal with European applications pre-grant.
Use a patent attorney for your application – we’re here to help
The take-home message is that you have a much better chance of getting a granted patent if you seek professional input from a qualified patent attorney from the start. If you draft your own patent application instead, it is likely to be much harder to get a meaningful scope of protection for your invention. This is true even if you later seek help from a patent attorney, because you will be limited by the information you put in the original application on filing.
The UK IPO also provides some guidance on this issue. It is definitely worth taking on board, since getting your patent application wrong at the start of the process could prevent you from ever obtaining the monopoly you want.
If you have any questions about patents or other areas of IP, please feel free to contact us and speak with one of our qualified UK and European patent attorneys.