Yes – your invention may be patentable and it is important that a Patent application is filed before you make any non-confidential disclosure of the invention, if you wish to secure valid Patent protection in the UK. This is also the case in other European Union countries and indeed most countries throughout the world. It is also of note that any disclosure of an invention in a foreign country can be relevant to the validity of a Patent obtained in the UK, and vice-versa. However, once a Patent application has been filed, you are safe to disclose the invention, should you wish, although we always recommend that any disclosure is under confidential circumstances, if possible
Not necessarily – it depends upon the nature of the disclosure. For example, a disclosure must be ‘enabling’ in order for it to be prejudicial to a Patent granted on the invention. Thus if only certain details have been publicly disclosed, it may still be possible to secure valid Patent rights in the UK.
It is also of note that certain countries, including the USA and Canada, have a ‘grace period’ in which a Patent application may be filed following such a non-confidentail disclosure, which may be relevant if you have business interests there.
All types of registerable Intellectual Property Rights (Patents, Trade Marks, Registered Designs) are territorial. So, for example, a UK Trade Mark or UK Patent does not provide any rights outside of the UK. However systems such as the Community Trade Mark Regulation and European Patent Convention exist which provide an opportunity to obtain uniform protection in all countries of the European Union on the strength of a single application process.
We can advise on the best strategy for protecting your idea worldwide.
It is true to say that the UK and European Patent Offices will not allow a computer programs to be patented where the patent application relates only to the computer program as such. Although similar exclusions apply, based on our experience it is much easier to patent software in the USA. We can provide expert opinion on the patentability of your software.
However, if the program produces a specific technical effect or brings about a technical improvement to a technical field, it is possible to obtain patent protection. For example, a new and inventive system that provides computer control for manufacturing equipment or scientific apparatus should be patentable. In addition, a computer program that improves the internal workings of a computer, some software relating to graphics and file or database structures may be patentable
In addition, your company will own the copyright in the code that has been written by its employees and should have agreements in place to ensure that it owns the copyright of work done by consultants. Copyright will prevent the complete or substantial copying of the code, but will not protect the underlying inventive concept which may be protected by a patent
Patent protection is not available in relation to the aesthetic appearance of an object. However, if the design is novel, it is possible to secure Registered Design protection. Whilst a Design Registration cannot provide protection in relation to any functional features, such as how the product is manufactured or how it operates in use, it does provide the ability to prevent others from copying your design. Protection for a design in the UK can be obtained either by securing a national UK Design Registration, or a European Community Design Registration, which covers all countries in the European Union.
If you have a question regarding our services or IP law, contact us