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Using Patents to protect your technology

You've invested time and money in research and development and believe you now have a winning product. If you're proved right it is almost inevitable a competitor here or abroad will look to imitate or directly copy your technology. What can you do to protect your business?

The UK has a history of creating innovative and commercially successful products but UK businesses often fail to protect their ideas.

There are different ways of protecting your technology. Patents often provide the strongest protection.

Some important facts:

A patent gives you the right to take legal action against a company who is infringing the rights conferred by your patent. Similarly, if a company believes you are infringing their rights they can take action against you. When developing new products it is valuable to establish what rights are already in place, particularly rights of your competitors.

To be granted a patent an invention must be new, not obvious and have practical application. A note of caution: you should not publicly disclose your invention or use or sell your invention before a patent application has been filed. This will almost certainly invalidate any patent. Think about your IP strategy as early as you can in your R&D programme.

For UK companies, a patent application will normally be filed initially at the UK Intellectual Property Office but this is not compulsory. International conventions allow you to seek protection in most countries and so strategic planning is important. Consider your markets and your competitors. Perhaps most importantly consider what competitor activity could damage your business.

Remember patents are a business asset. They can be sold, licensed and used in negotiations much like any other business asset. Sometimes cross-licensing can be good for your business and can enhance your products.

Patents are not in force forever and provide a wealth of technical information. A patent must be renewed every year. If it is not renewed then the technology may be available for you to use.

Finally, patents can be challenged. If your business finds itself under threat of legal action you have options to challenge the patents validity.

Securing the right protection for your technology and your business is complex both technically and legally. Intellectual Property specialist D Young & Co is well placed to support UK businesses. The firm's teams of attorneys and solicitors have recognised skills in each area of intellectual property law. The firm is consistently ranked as top tier by Legal 500 and described as "consistently excellent" and as having "business acumen and industry knowledge of the patent attorney landscape is very impressive".

If any of these issues are of interest or concern please contact us.

Anthony Albutt is a Partner at D Young & Co LLP.

D Young & Co LLP

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What you think about this article:

If you are a giant corporation, yes go ahead. If you have invented a new shopping trolley, forget it, it's not worth the effort, anyone can take your patent and wait for you to sue, even Dyson lost in the US.
Patent agents, I found very likeable, very honest, and qualified to do the job, but these guys want £1000 just to rewrite your patent in a legal style, and then it starts, £200 for changing this, £300 for that. When you get the patent documents and get on the road and spend another couple of thousand touring the country finding out that you've more chance of winning the national lottery than of having a firm take up your patent, you could be £5000 down.
Next come the scammers. Lots of phone calls offering to take your patented idea and introduce it to their "clients" who are looking for ideas like yours, just £1000 and 25% of the profits, or £2000 and 10% of the profits..
What profits?

Posted by: Tony Smee, 02/12/2011

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