History is littered with inventors whose ideas have been exploited by someone else who has then gone on to become rich beyond their wildest dreams. A successful patent application could have changed all that.
1. Keep mum about your invention, unless to a patent agent.
2. Complete and file patents form 1/77 in the Patent Office (there is no fee unless you are also applying for a search). With the form should be sent a description of the invention drafted in accordance with Patent Office rules which specify the exact format. It must describe the invention fully and clearly enough so that a competent person could follow the description and build it or carry out the process. Enclose two copies, preferably typed and on A4 size paper.
3. You will receive a receipt with the date of filing and a number. This gives you your priority date which gives you precedence over the same invention being filed later. But this is no guarantee that the same invention has not already been publicised elsewhere by another person.
4. During the next year, examine the commercial possibilities and decide whether to press on with your application or let it lapse.
5. If you make an improvement to your invention, you cannot add it to your first application but would have to file a new one. However, as long as you do this within a year of the priority date, that date will apply to whatever is in the new application which was also in the first application. The first application can now be allowed to lapse.
6. Within a year of the priority date you need to file a request for a preliminary search and examination on patents form 9/77, together with the required fee. If you do not do this, your application lapses. You will also need to file the patent ‘claims’ which define in words the monopoly sought and an ‘abstract’, a short summary of the invention.
7. Once the search has been carried out by a Patent Office Examiner, a search report will be issued. This is a list of relevant documents so you can compare your invention with others and decide whether your application is likely to be successful.
8. If you do not withdraw your application at this stage, your application will be published by the Patent Office without any changes.
9. Within six months of publication of the application, you have to file the next form (Form 10/77), plus the required fee. There is now a much more detailed examination of your invention.
10. As a result of this substantive examination, amendments may be required by the Examiner. If these are carried out satisfactorily and within the required time, the patent will be granted.
See also: SMEs to benefit from new patent reforms