Patenting an invention is a great way of making sure you're getting the most out of it. It protects you against people stealing your work and lets you take legal action against anyone who tries to make money from it without your permission.
The first thing to understand is that not everything can be patented. Your invention needs to be innovative, obviously - but it also needs to be something that can actually be made or used, and not just a loose concept or a basic modification of something that already exists. There are some complicated rules about what can be patented, but in general you can't apply for things like:
Scientific or mathematical methods.
New ways of thinking or presenting information.
Certain types of computer programs, medical treatments or plants, seeds and animals.
Once you're confident that your invention qualifies, things start to get really tricky. The patenting process isn't cheap or easy, and you've got very little chance of getting through it successfully without serious professional help - from a specialist patent attorney, for example. You need to be sure it makes good business sense to apply, and it might be worth looking into other options like trademarks or non-disclosure agreements before you commit yourself. After that, with the right advice and support, you can start the wheels turning. Your advisor or attorney will help you to:
Make sure your invention is new, through a patent search.
Prepare and file your application.
Request a search and "substantive examination" from the Intellectual Property Office to confirm you qualify for the patent.
All told, it can be a long and expensive process. The UK government's website estimates that an average application will take five years to process fully and costs around £4,000 with professional help. Going it alone will bring the price down, but only 5% of applications without help end up getting approved.
The good news is that there are ways to take a lot of the sting out of innovating. The government's own Research & Development Tax Relief scheme is basically the best kept secret in the business world. If you're working to solve real-world problems with the potential to impact more than just your own business, then you can claim back a lot of the tax you're paying on profits - or get a cash payout to help cover your losses. It's the single largest tax credit scheme out there, and far too few businesses are taking advantage of it.
RIFT R&D is the champion of small businesses with big ideas, and we can guide you through every part of your R&D claim. With a single SME claim being worth £49,000 on average, there's everything to gain from applying, whatever stage your patent application's at. If you already have patents, we can show you how use the Patent Box programme for even more ways to benefit. We have a 100% success rate on our clients' claims, so get in touch with RIFT R&D to make the most of your biggest ideas.
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