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How long do patents and trade marks last in the UK?

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Patents and trade marks are registered rights which have a set duration

But how long do they last? And how does this affect businesses which apply for them? Read on.

A close up image of some red goo

Photo by Pawel Czerwinski on Unsplash

Words by Dr Martin Douglas Hendry

If you're an entrepreneur or business owner in the UK, you may be wondering how long your patents and trade marks will be protected. After all, these forms of intellectual property are essential for protecting your brand, inventions, and creative works. In this blog post, we'll explore the length of protection for patents and trade marks in the UK and what factors can affect their duration.





A patent is a legal monopoly granted to inventors for their inventions or processes. This means that the patent holder has exclusive rights to use, make, and sell the invention for a specified period of time. In the UK, patents are protected for 20 years from the filing date. This duration is set by law and cannot be extended.

However, there are factors that can affect the duration of a patent's protection. For example, if a patent holder fails to pay renewal fees or does not use the invention commercially, the patent may expire before the full 20-year term. Additionally, some patents may be subject to legal challenges, which can shorten their duration.

Notable patents that have expired in recent years include the patent for the drug Lipitor, which had been protected since 1990 and generated billions of dollars in revenue for its manufacturer. With the patent's expiration, in 2011 other pharmaceutical companies were able to create generic versions of the drug at a lower cost.



Trade Marks


A trade mark is a distinctive sign used by businesses to identify and distinguish their products or services from those of others. Trade marks can include words, logos, symbols, and even sounds or smells. In the UK, trade marks are initially protected for 10 years from the filing date, with the ability to renew indefinitely as long as the trade mark is in use.

As with patents, there are factors that can affect the duration of a trade mark's protection. For example, if a trade mark holder fails to use the mark for a period of 5 years, it may be subject to cancellation. Additionally, if a trade mark becomes too generic or widely used, it may lose its protection.

Well-known trade marks that have been protected in the UK for a long time include Coca-Cola's distinctive script logo, which has been used since the late 1800s, and the Nike "swoosh" symbol, which has been used since the 1970s.



Comparing Patents and Trade Marks


While patents and trade marks serve different purposes, there are some similarities in their duration of protection. Both patents and trade marks require a formal application process, and their protection can be subject to legal challenges. Additionally, maintaining and protecting patents and trade marks can be costly and time-consuming, so it's important to carefully consider the value and potential return on investment for each.





Understanding the duration of protection for patents and trade marks in the UK is essential for any business or individual seeking to protect their intellectual property. While patents are protected for 20 years from the filing date, trade marks are initially protected for 10 years with the ability to renew indefinitely. However, there are factors that can affect the duration of protection for both patents and trade marks, so it's important to consult with a qualified intellectual property solicitor and refer to official government resources for specific information. By carefully protecting your intellectual property, you can ensure the longevity and success of your business for years to come.


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Look at our other guides that relate to this topic here.

What is meant by intellectual property and why is it an important issue today?

The importance of trademark registration in your business

What happens if you use a trade mark without permission



Virtuoso Legal is a team of intellectual property specialists based in Leeds and London - operating worldwide. Virtuoso Legal's team of IP experts have successfully tried cases in the IPEC, High Court, Court of Appeals and United Kingdom Supreme Court. In addition, the team assist companies in creating, commercialising and protecting the big ideas that make their business unique. The firm and its professionals are ranked yearly in legal directories such as the Legal 500 and Chambers and Partners, cementing their status as a Top 2% law firm in the world.

DISCLAIMER: The content within this post is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Virtuoso Legal does not take any responsibility for those that use this information and waives any liability for any resulting effect on your personal or commercial circumstances.

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