Amateur patents?

Thanks to Stephen Walker for pointing out a (mostly) well-informed piece in yesterday's Times on how to get your own patent. For an amateur would-be patent proprietor, the article advises that £200 is enough to get you a granted patent from the UK Patent Office, and you can expect to see a granted patent in two to three years. This is a sign that the UKPO is now a sleek and efficient operation (and well funded by renewal fees, as the actual cost is much more than £200).

Right: No, not that sort of patent cat (click on the picture).

An example is given of Ron Hamilton, who filed a patent on contact lenses and eventually sold it and his business for £33m. What it also says though is that Mr Hamilton employed the services of a patent agent, and is quoted as saying "I believe it is a misconception that you can file a patent for £200. You probably can — but you will lose it in about two years because you get what you pay for".

The IPKat thinks that this is a nice bit of PR from the UK Patent Office, who do really really want to help those innovative but not necessarily cash-rich inventors, now that all the moneyed applicants are going straight to the EPO. However, as Merpel warns, if you do-it-yourself the results are not always that great.
Amateur patents? Amateur patents? Reviewed by David Pearce on Monday, January 15, 2007 Rating: 5


  1. Personally I think more inventors should consider filing their own applications but I dont think we can say this is a recommended article with this quote:
    The Patent Office said: “Some people put in an application and then they find that actually their product doesn’t work, and they need to add something else. So the 18 months gives you time to refine it and see if you need to make amendments.”
    Most inventors do want to add subject matter to their applications and it just isn't possible. If its less than a year from the first application they can file a new consolidated application and claim priority from the first one - and pay the fees again. If its later, then sneeking in a few extra paragraphs is just not allowed.
    I would also have liked the article to emphasise that you do first have to make an invention. Many new entrepreneurs seem to have the impression they can ask for a patent on their manufacturing process just because they developed it without the help of anyone else and sometimes even when they did not but will be investing in it. It also seems the case that grown up industries do the same thing quite often as well which is why one of the few good things in Gowers is a tiny step towards improving the quality of examination - no disrespect to the core of examiners whose efforts in studying many patent specifications is only to be applauded - but if inventors are blind to the state of the art then sometimes it needs more than the patent library to see whether there is any contribution, inventive or otherwise.

  2. I think the 18 month comment refers to the ability to abandon the application before publication and file again, provided that no disclosure has been made in the interim period. It is therefore a bit misleading in the article to say that "amendments" could be made up until the end of this period.

  3. The Patent Office comment that the total cost of obtaining a granted patent IN OFFICIAL FEES is £200 is their defence against complaints about the high cost of obtaining a patent; the main costs lie elsewhere. For many years the Patent Office have followed the precepts of Robin Hood. The charges for the initial stages of a patent application are subsidised by the renewal fees paid by successful patentees. A patent has to be in force for eleven years before it is cost neutral.
    If the ability to write descriptive documente in the English language was taught to scientists and engineers the need for professional assistance with its associated high cost would be reduced.

  4. "If the ability to write descriptive document[s] in the English language was taught to scientists and engineers the need for professional assistance with its associated high cost would be reduced."

    This ability is taught to scientists and engineers but writing something so that it is going to be constructed to purpose, is not. See Synthon BV v Glaxosmithkline Beecham.


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