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How to apply for a patent


Patent application typically consists of a request for the grant of a patent, a specification of the invention (containing claims and drawings) and an abstract with a summary.

It is possible to apply for a patent on your own. However, patent specifications are legal documents and can be complex. In most cases, it is advisable to seek help from a specialised adviser or find a patent attorney.

Patent application process in the UK

Before applying for a new patent, you should first search for existing patents to make sure that you can protect your invention without infringing on any earlier rights.

After searching, you will have to:

  • prepare your patent application
  • file your application with the UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO)
  • request a search from the IPO, typically within 12 months of your filing date
  • receive your search report (usually within six months)

At this stage, you can decide to continue with your application or abandon it. If you choose to continue:

  • your application will be published 18 months after you file it
  • you must ask for a substantive examination no later than six months after publication
  • you must respond to comments from IPO's substantive examination
  • your application will be granted or refused

You mustn't make your invention public before you apply. You may not be able to patent it if you do. After the IPO publishes your application, you can disclose your invention but you might want to show that you have a 'patent pending' to discourage others from copying it. See marking of patented products.

How to prepare a UK patent application?

If you choose to work with a patent attorney or an IP adviser, they will help you through the application process. However, if you choose to apply on your own, you will have to prepare:

  • a written description - to explain your invention in detail and allow others to see how it works and how it could be made
  • drawings - to illustrate your description and clarify the nature of your invention
  • claims - to define the scope of the invention and set out its distinctive technical features
  • an abstract - to summarise the important technical aspects of your invention

See detailed guidance on preparing your patent application documents.

Once you prepare your application, you will need to file the request for grant of a patent with the IPO. You can apply online or by post.

How much does it cost to get a UK patent?

The costs of applying for a UK patent include:

Stage Apply online Apply by post
Application (if you pay when you apply) £60 £90
Application (if you pay later) £75 £112.50
Search £150 (plus £20 for each claim over 25 claims) £180 (plus £20 for each claim over 25 claims)
Substantive examination £100 (plus £10 for each page of description over 35 pages) £130 (plus £10 for each page of description over 35 pages)

You can get your application processed more quickly if you file your search and examination requests at the same time as you apply.

You can wait until after you apply to request and pay for your search and examination. You can also wait to pay the application fee but it costs more.

Find more details on patent fees.

You will incur additional costs if you're working with a professional patent adviser or an attorney. Overall, getting a UK patent typically costs around £4,000 and the process usually takes approximately four to five years.

Download a chart on the patent grant timeline (PDF, 115K)

Costs of maintaining the patent

You will need to pay to renew your patent on the fourth anniversary of when you filed for it, and every year after that. You may also need to cover the costs of defending your patent against infringement.

If you wish to file for patents in other countries, you will have to apply for patents abroad.

  • IPO Information Centre
    0300 300 2000