What does patent pending mean?

A product or process secures patent pending when a patent application has been filed but is not yet granted. A patent pending is designed to warn the general public, competitors within your industry and other potential infringers that could copy an invention that they may be liable for damages once the full patent is issued.

The fraudulent use of a patent pending is prohibited by law in many countries across the globe. In the UK, a patent pending warning notice should ideally include the number of the pending application in question.

A patent pending is a clear demonstration of an inventor’s intent to pursue protection of an idea. However, the full scope of protection – or indeed whether a patent will even be issued – is far from certain.

It’s possible that a patent pending will stop aggressive competitors from attempting to copy your idea. The cost of product development combined with the prospect of possible patent infringement is often enough to stop many people in their tracks. But a patent pending itself gives you no legal right at all until a patent is granted fully.

How can I search for pending patents in the UK?

If you wish to check for existing patents pending in the UK, track the progress of a published patent application or see if patents are available to license, the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) allows you to search using its patent information and document service and patent publication service.

The IPO also lists separate channels for the following:

If, after you’ve conducted the necessary patent searches, you’re satisfied that you have an idea that’s potentially patentable, the next step is to undertake a period of market research to understand your target market and its viability as a business.

What do I need to submit a patent application?

A UK patent application comprises of four parts that need to meet specific criteria, as listed by the IPO:

  • A clear description of your invention, allowing others to see how it works and how it could be created.
  • The ‘claims’ aspect of the application i.e. the legal statements that outline the technical features of the invention that need to be protected.
  • The ‘abstract’ section of the application i.e. a digestible summary of the key technical aspects of the invention.
  • An inclusion of any technical drawings to adequately illustrate your description.

How quickly can I apply for a patent?

If time is of the essence to get intellectual property protection for your idea, a patent pending tends to give inventors more protection than a typical non-disclosure agreement (NDA) – and quickly.

In the UK, the IPO deems a patent application to have arrived at its offices on the subsequent day of posting via first class mail. The IPO will acknowledge receipt of your form and confirm the filing date of your application. So within 24 hours it is possible for your application to be deemed ‘patent pending’.

However, the process to obtain a full patent is somewhat longer and more complicated. The IPO states:

  • Only one-in-20 applicants get a patent without professional help
  • With professional help, patent applications typically cost in the region of £4,000
  • The complete patent application process can take up to five years

Note: Applying for a patent can be a complex process and the IPO strongly advises individuals to seek legal advice from a patent attorney or advisor. A patent specification is a legal document and requires specialist skills to draft properly.

A patent application can be withdrawn at any time and for any reason. To stop your invention entering the public domain you must withdraw your application before it is published. You can ask for an application withdrawal up to the day before the publication deadline supplied within your search report.

A patent gives inventors - such as you - the intellectual property protection that stops others, for a limited period, from making, using and selling their inventions without prior permission. If you’re thinking of patenting a new idea and you’re unsure whether there are similar products and concepts already patented in the UK, sign up to our ‘Patents Searching’ Mini Masterclass and let us help you utilise the free web databases available to find out how to protect your ideas.

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