Looking to protect your business? Learn how to patent a business idea using this step-by-step guide by Countingup. We’ll walk you through the basics of patenting your idea to protect your business and cover the key areas, including: 

  • How to patent a business idea
  • How to protect your patent
  • How to speed up your application

At Countingup, we want to empower new entrepreneurs to make their business a success. Read on to find out how.

Step 1: Find out whether your idea is patentable

Patents are a way of protecting your business, but they’re not the only way. Specifically, patents are a way of protecting certain designs, processes or inventions. When looking to protect your business idea with a patent, make sure your idea is:

  • New: your idea must be completely unique and unknown to the public when you apply. Make sure your invention is new by searching for existing patents online.
  • Inventive: your idea has to be meaningfully different from what already exists.
  • Usable: your idea has to have some sort of real-world or industrial application.

Some types of inventions can’t be patented or fall under different types of existing protection. For example, artistic works like fictional stories, music or art, and computer software or mobile apps are protected by copyright. Meanwhile, patents are not typically granted for more generic inventions like recipes or business methods. Therefore, while these products can be protected through non-disclosure agreements, they aren’t as strong as the exclusive protection offered by patents. Find out more about other types of intellectual property protection here.

Registering a patent is costly and time-consuming so knowing what is eligible can save you lots of time and money. Therefore, it’s strongly recommended that you work with a patent attorney or advisor to make your application as effective as possible. As you’re researching, use non-disclosure agreements as your patent may not be granted if your idea becomes available and known by the public.

Step 2: Prepare your documents and apply

To apply for a patent, you’ll need to prepare several documents, including:

Follow the Intellectual Property Office’s (IPO) guides using the links provided or consult your patent attorney or advisor for help. Once you have these documents ready, apply for your patent online. Some details of your application will be published on the online patents journal in 18 months time.

Step 3: Request a search and examination of your idea

After you’ve submitted your initial documents, the IPO conducts a search into whether your idea is new and inventive. This process can take up to six months and you’ll be given a report with the findings. 

Afterwards, the IPO will conduct a ‘substantive examination’ to determine how new and inventive it is. Your idea will have to be described accurately and be sufficiently unique to meet the required legal standards for a patent. Therefore, you may have to make amends based on the search and examination findings. You must request the examination within 6 months of your application’s publication on the IPO website.

Other things to consider

How to speed up your application

There are a number of ways to make your patent application faster. These include requesting application stages to be completed at earlier stages, using the green channel for environmental products or transitioning existing patents you hold into the UK market.

Can you begin trading with ‘patent pending’?

Technically, yes, although be sure to clarify your exact circumstances with your lawyer and patent attorney before doing so. 

While your business and invention’s protected status isn’t confirmed until your patent is fully granted, you may be able to start trading and advertising your business to interested investors. Depending on your circumstances and the nature of your invention, you may risk your patent viability if you disclose too much about your invention. Therefore, be very cautious and use non-disclosure agreements where relevant and possible. 

Applying for UK patents through other channels

It’s also possible to have a patent granted by applying either through the European Patent Office (EPO) or World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). If you’re looking to expand your business and sell or operate across borders, these routes may be more relevant to your business. Particularly because these channels involve competing legal frameworks for what’s considered patentable in different countries, you should seek specialised legal advice. 

How to protect your patent

Intellectual property law is complex, but here are some general tips for how to protect your patent. This list isn’t exhaustive as other difficulties may arise.

  • Don’t make your invention public before you’ve applied. Giving away your idea will undermine your application.
  • Consider registering patent applications in other countries to protect yourself from infringement and imported competition. Search international patent databases and their protected regions using this online tool
  • Be mindful of the 20-year timeframe your patent lasts for – aim to make your business successful in this window before your protection lapses. Once your protection lapses, other players can begin selling your product if they know how.
  • Make sure to pay your renewal fees each year.
  • Use other elements to protect your business, including strong marketing and trademarks.

Save time and focus on what matters most with Countingup

If you have the next ‘it’ invention, you’ll need to take special consideration as you apply for a patent. To save you time and stress while you get your business up and running, Countingup automates the time consuming parts of financial admin. Countingup is the business current account and accounting software in one app. 

With all your business’ financial information in one app, Countingup offers areal-time profit and loss data, so you can quickly and easily understand your business’ performance at a glance. Use this data to pitch your value and expertise in business and confidently launch your business.

Countingup also provides automatic expense categorisation, receipt capture prompts and automatic invoicing, so that you can keep on top of your finances from day one. Find out more here and sign up for free today.