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The First Steps in the Patent Application Process in the UK

Filing for a patent for your invention is a big step. You need to know that it is the right step to take for your purposes, since filing for a patent can be time-consuming and costly. If you are new to the world of patents, this guide takes you through the first steps when filing for a patent in the UK.

The Research

You have an idea. You develop a new product or new technique. First of all you need to check that it is truly novel – i.e. that it has never been made public, anywhere in the world, in any form. Before investing time and effort to put together a patent application you need to check that your invention is novel using a search of published documents and patents.


It is important, at this stage of the patent process, that you do not make your invention public. This means no ads, no demonstrations, and even talking to others about your invention is best avoided. Otherwise you could risk your chances of getting a patent on your invention. If you talk to a business partner or associates you need to draw up a confidentiality agreement with the help of a patent attorney. Of course, your conversations with this attorney will be confidential, so you don’t need to worry about them making your invention public.

Professional Advice

As mentioned above, it is helpful to get professional advice from a patent attorney in the early stages of patent application, particularly when you may have complex patent issues such as software patents. You may also need advice from a business adviser to see if it is worth making a patent application – this should be part of your overall business plan.


Once you have decided to go ahead, you file with the IPO an application that includes a written description of what you have invented, drawings, claims, and an abstract. You can file for a patent on your own but this process is not recommended since it is a legal process and it takes a lot of specialist skill in order to get it right. You are more likely to get a patent when you use an attorney.

The Search

Once you have filed, you will undertake a search that usually must be completed within a year of filing your patent application. The search aims to reveal whether the invention is novel and innovative.

It’s worthwhile noting that not all inventions or new ideas are worth patenting. Consulting an experienced patent attorney will help you ascertain if your invention, or idea, is really patentable, and worth the effort and expense of applying for a patent.

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