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HMRC internal manual

International Manual

DT applications and claims -Types of income: Royalties

Patent royalties

The word “patent” is not defined in the tax legislation. A patent consists of rights conferred by letters patent to the exclusive use and benefits of a particular invention. It will last for a specified period. The period for which a patent lasts is often referred to as the term of the patent. A patent is a form of protection for an inventor. A person who wants to use an invention that has been patented must acquire rights to use the patent or be granted a licence to use it. This lets the inventor control the way in which the invention is used. Once a patent has been granted the inventor can get income by granting rights or a licence to use it.

A patent right is not recognised unless it is registered. A patent can only be applied for by the original inventor (alone or with other persons/companies). A patent right gives the owner a monopoly right to use, exercise, manufacture and sell a new invention in the country where the patent is granted. Normally, the original inventor applies for the patent to the Patent Office with a “provisional specification”. This application does not give immediate protection but the inventor is established as the “true and first inventor”. The inventor then submits a “complete specification”, usually within the first 12 months. This is accepted by the Patent Office and the patent is then granted to the originator or “sealed”.

There are international arrangements and under these an inventor who applies for a patent in one of the “Patent Convention” countries automatically has priority in applying for a UK patent. However, he must make this application within 12 months of submitting the “complete specification”.

A patent runs from the date it is “sealed” to a date 16 years after the “complete specification” was submitted. This is subject to an extension of 5 or10 years in special circumstances.

The inventor has to pay a fee at all stages of the proceedings in the granting of his patent as well as annually after it has been granted.

Trade mark

A trademark is a mark which a merchant/manufacturer puts on his goods for the purpose of distinguishing his goods from any other similar goods made or sold by others. A trademark may be obtained in one of the following two ways

  • by the long established use of the mark
  • by registration at the Patent Office (this is more common).

The owner of a UK trademark has the exclusive right to use the mark in the UK on goods for which it is registered. If the owner assigns the trademark to someone else he has to register this at the Patent Office.

A trademark lasts for 7 years. However, this can be extended indefinitely if the owner pays renewal fees.