A UK patent may help if you want to take legal action against someone who uses your invention without your permission. For example, if they sell or manufacture your product in the UK.

A patent lasts 5 years. If you want it to stay in force after that, you must renew it every year, up to a maximum of 20 years.

What you can patent

Your invention must be:

  • new - it must not have been made publicly available anywhere in the world, for example it must not be described in a publication
  • inventive - for example, it cannot be an obvious change to something that already exists
  • either something that can be made and used, a technical process, or a method of doing something

What you cannot patent

Things you cannot patent include:

  • literary, dramatic, musical or artistic works
  • a way of doing business, playing a game or thinking
  • a method of medical treatment or diagnosis
  • a discovery, scientific theory or mathematical method
  • the way information is presented
  • ‘essentially biological’ processes like cross-breeding animals or varieties of plants
  • software that has a ‘non-technical’ purpose

Only software with a technical purpose can be granted a patent. For example software to control a driverless car could have a patent, while a chess playing app could not. If your invention is software, you may need professional advice whether it can be patented (for example, from a patent attorney).

Watch a short video about patents (2 minutes).

What it costs

You must pay fees to the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) when you file your application and for processing your application after you file. It will cost at least £310 if you complete the process.

To have the best chance of getting a patent granted you will usually also need to pay a patent attorney for help and advice. This can cost several thousand pounds.

The application process

Getting a patent is complicated - you are unlikely to get a patent without professional help and it can take several years.

If you’re confident your invention is new and a patent meets your needs, you must:

  • prepare detailed documents that describe your invention
  • file these documents with the IPO

You must then ask IPO to carry out their own check into whether your invention is new and inventive (a ‘search’).

Around 18 months after you apply the IPO will publish your application in full.

The IPO must then make a thorough check of your application to decide if your invention can be patented (known as a ‘substantive examination’). This could take place several years after you apply.

You may have to amend your application based on the IPO’s recommendations. Your patent will only be granted if you can resolve all the issues raised by the examination.

View a timeline of the process.

Other ways to get a UK patent

Some international organisations can grant UK patents as well as patents for other countries. Read guidance on protecting your intellectual property abroad.