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What is an invention?

Back to IP FAQs Overview

Inventions can be the cornerstone of a business' IP portfolio

But what are they, legally speaking, and how are they protected?

What is an invention

Words by Todd Bateman


What is an invention?


An invention is a new and improved product, process, or device that is created as a result of human ingenuity and creativity.

Inventions can be created for a variety of purposes, including solving problems, improving upon existing products or devices, or simply providing entertainment.



What is the process of inventing?


The process of inventing typically involves a great deal of research and experimentation in order to develop a new and novel idea or concept. In order to be considered an invention, a new product or device must be significantly different from anything that already exists.

It must also be useful, meaning that it must serve some purpose or solve some problem. Inventions can be either physical objects or processes or methods. They can be simple or complex, and they can be designed for a variety of purposes.



What are some examples of inventions?


Some of the most famous and important inventions in history include the printing press, the telephone, the light bulb, the automobile, and the computer.

These inventions have all had a profound impact on the world and have changed the way we live and work. Inventions can be big or small, but they all have the potential to make a difference in the world.



How do you legally protect an invention?


There are a few different ways to legally protect an invention, the most common being a patent.

To obtain a patent, an inventor must file a patent application with the Intellectual Property Office (IPO).  The patent application must include a description of the invention, as well as claims that define the invention. Once the patent application is filed, the IPO will examine the application to determine if the invention is patentable. If the IPO determines that the invention is patentable, a patent will be issued. Another way to legally protect an invention is through trade secret law.

Trade secret law protects information that is not publicly known and that gives a company an advantage over its competitors. To qualify as a trade secret, the information must be kept secret and must provide a competitive advantage. Trade secret law does not require that the information be patented or copyrighted, but it does require that the information be kept secret.

Yet another way to protect an invention is through copyright law. Copyright law protects original works of authorship, such as books, movies, and songs. To qualify for copyright protection, the work must be original and must be fixed in a tangible form. Copyright law does not protect ideas, concepts, or facts.



How much does it cost to get a patent, and how long does the process take?


It can cost anywhere from £5,000 to £30,000 to patent an invention, and the process can take anywhere from several months to several years.

The cost and time frame depend on a number of factors, including the type of patent (utility, design, or plant), the complexity of the invention, the number of claims, and whether or not the patent is contested.

In general, utility patents are the most expensive and time-consuming to obtain, while design patents are the least.

The first step in the patenting process is to file a patent application with the IPO. The application must include a detailed description of the invention, as well as one or more claims.

The IPO will then review the application to make sure it meets all the necessary requirements. If it does, the application will be published, and other interested parties will have a chance to contest the patent. If the patent is contested, it will go through an adversarial process. This can add significant time and cost to the patenting process. If the patent is not contested, it will be issued within a few months. Overall, the patenting process can be costly and time-consuming, but it can be well worth it for inventors who want to protect their inventions.



How long does a patent last?


In most jurisdictions, a patent lasts for 20 years from the date of filing. After a patent expires, the invention becomes part of the public domain and can be used by anyone. If the patent is issued, the term is 20 years from the date of issue. If the patent is not issued, the term is 20 years from the date of filing. A patent expires at the end of its term, regardless of whether it is infringed or not.



What happens when a patent expires?


A patent expires when the term of the patent expires. The term of a patent is 20 years from the date the patent application is filed. After the patent expires, the invention is no longer protected by the patent and anyone can make, use, or sell the invention without permission from the patent holder. In some instances, there can be a small extension of this time where the time taken between filing and registration of a patent has been protracted.



How do trade secrets work?


A trade secret is information that is not generally known and that provides a competitive advantage to its owner. Trade secrets can include formulas, patterns, compilations, programs, devices, methods, techniques, or processes.

The owner of a trade secret can be an individual, a business, or a government.

To qualify as a trade secret, information must meet three criteria: 1) It must be secret, meaning it is not generally known or readily accessible to those who can obtain an economic benefit from its use or disclosure; 2) It must have economic value or potential economic value; and 3) It must be subject to reasonable efforts to keep it secret.

There are a number of ways to protect trade secrets, including physical security measures, confidentiality agreements, and non-disclosure agreements.

Physical security measures may include locked cabinets or rooms, security cameras, and shredders.

Confidentiality agreements (also known as non-disclosure agreements or NDAs) are contracts in which the parties agree not to disclose the confidential information.

Non-disclosure agreements can be between two companies, two individuals, or an individual and a company.

The owner of a trade secret has a number of remedies if the trade secret is misappropriated, including injunctions and damages. Injunctions are court orders that prohibit someone from disclosing or using a trade secret. Damages can include compensatory damages, punitive damages, and attorneys’ fees.



How do you keep an invention secret, in order to protect it via trade secrets?


There are a few different ways that you can protect an invention using trade secrets:

  1. First and foremost, you should always keep the invention a secret. Do not tell anyone about it or show it to anyone unless absolutely necessary. If you do have to tell someone or show someone, make sure that you have a non-disclosure agreement in place beforehand.
  2. If you do have to tell someone about the invention, be as vague as possible. Do not give away any details that could allow someone to recreate the invention.
  3. Be careful when filing for patents. If you file for a patent, your invention will become public knowledge. If you do not want your invention to become public knowledge, you should not file for a patent.
  4. If you do file for a patent, make sure that you have a strong patent application. If your patent application is weak, it is more likely that someone will be able to recreate your invention.
  5. Keep good records of your invention. Document everything about the invention, from the initial idea to the final product. This will help you prove that you are the true inventor of the invention if someone tries to steal it.


If you have an invention and are looking to protect it. get in touch with our team for assistance by entering your enquiry into our contact form.



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Disclaimer: This FAQ should not be construed as legal advice on any specific facts. The contents are intended for general informational purposes only. You are urged to consult your own solicitor on any specific legal questions you may have.

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