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Advantages and disadvantages of getting a patent

There are many possible advantages and disadvantages of patents. When deciding if you should apply for a patent, you should look at your invention and consider the risks of not patenting it against the costs of doing so.

Advantages of patents

  • A patent gives you the right to stop others from copying, manufacturing, selling or importing your invention without your permission. See protecting intellectual property.
  • You get protection for a pre-determined period, allowing you to keep competitors at bay.
  • You can then use your invention yourself.
  • Alternatively, you can license your patent for others to use it, or sell it, as with any asset. This can provide an important source of revenue for your business. Indeed, some businesses exist solely to collect the royalties from a patent they have licensed - perhaps in combination with a registered design and trade mark. See how to license a patent.

If you're considering securing trade mark protection, see benefits of trade mark registration.

Disadvantages of patents

  • Your patent application means making certain technical information about your invention publicly available. It might be that keeping the details of your invention secret will keep competitors at bay more effectively.
  • Applying for a patent can be a very time-consuming and lengthy process (typically three to four years) - market may have changed or technology may have overtaken your invention by the time a patent is granted.
  • Cost - it will cost you money whether you are successful or not - the application, searches for existing patents and a patent attorney's fees can all contribute to a reasonable outlay.
  • You'll need to remember to pay your annual fee or your patent will lapse.
  • You'll need to be prepared to defend your patent. Taking action against an infringer can be very expensive. On the other hand, a patent can act as a deterrent, making defence unnecessary. Read more about patent protection and enforcement.

Patent costs and marketing considerations

Because patents are territorial, you will only be able to stop competition in the country in which you hold a patent. If you believe your invention has potential in other countries, and you intend to develop those markets, you will also need to budget for the cost of applying for a patent in your target countries, and offset this cost against the patented item's projected income over the lifetime of the patent. Find more information on applying for a patent in other countries and intellectual property protection overseas.

Once your patent application has been granted, see how to manage your patents.