In brief, inventions that are the subject of a European patent application must have at least one technical feature in them in order to be eligible for grant. It is this technical feature which must meet the requirements for novelty and inventive step.


This is the duration of an intellectual property right. Patents last for 20 years from the filing date (and normally require annual renewal fees to keep them in force). Registered designs in the UK and Europe last for 5 years from the filing date, renewable 4 times up to a maximum of 25 years. Registered trademarks last indefinitely upon payment of renewal fees every 10 years.


The Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys is the professional and examining body for patent attorneys in the UK.


A patent application or design registration confers a monopoly on a product, process, or design. However, disclosure of the invention or design is required and, at the end of the period of the right, the invention will be in the public domain and available for anyone to use or copy. An inventor (particularly of a process) might therefore choose not to patent the process, but to keep it a secret whilst also using it for commercial gain. In doing this, he might hope to maintain a monopoly over the use of his inventive process for longer than the period of protection conferred by a patent. This is a risky strategy, however. The law offers relatively little protection for trade secrets and, whilst the inventor may be entitled to damages in breach of confidence if someone (for example, an ex-employee) discloses the process, there is nothing to stop others using it once disclosed, and there is no protection at all from an independent inventor coming up with the same idea.


A Trade Mark is any sign, which is capable of distinguishing the goods and/or services of one undertaking from those of another undertaking.


A patent may be transferred between proprietors, should it be determined that the patent has been granted to the wrong person erroneously.


Patent applications may be filed at UK IPO in either English or Welsh, but if filed in Welsh a translation must be supplied within a set period.