How to manage your patents

Monitoring patent applications


Monitoring patent activity is an essential part of protecting your intellectual property portfolio and your business. It allows you to spot any competitors seeking to register a patent similar to - or conflicting with - yours or make an application that could potentially affect your business.

It also allows you to keep tabs on granted patents. For example, to learn if a particular patent expires, is surrendered or assigned to another party.

By monitoring patents of interest, you can gather critical intelligence for your own business strategy. The information will enable you to seize opportunities, make better decisions and determine if you need to object or challenge certain patent applications.

How to monitor patents

You can purchase many patent monitoring, watching and alerting services to carry out competitive intelligence on your behalf. However, with a bit of time and effort, you can monitor new patent applications or granted patent yourself by:

  • checking the Intellectual Property Office's (IPO) search report
  • checking those parts of the file that are open to public inspection
  • registering a caveat with the IPO, to be notified if certain changes occur

Patent search reports

The IPO allows free access to search reports, which may contain:

  • evidence that the IPO asked the applicant to change the claims during examination
  • documents that are related reading, and which are unlikely to affect the outcome
  • an indication that no relevant documents existed when the IPO searched the application
  • no search made, usually if the IPO considered invention not patentable

You can get free access to search reports through Espacenet.

Open to Public Inspection (OPI) files

As well as search reports, correspondence between the IPO and the patent applicant or their attorney are also open to the public.

You can check these files by appointment and without charge at the IPO's Newport or London offices. Some document from the file may also be available online through the IPO's patent documentation and information service.

Request a caveat from the IPO

You can monitor the progress of someone else's patent application or patent by registering a caveat with the UK IPO. A caveat is a notification that some action has taken place on a patent application or patent.

You can ask the IPO to warn you if the following happens:

  • application is published or withdrawn, refused or abandoned before publication
  • opposition is filed against an application
  • application is registered or withdrawn, refused or abandoned after publication
  • patent is not renewed
  • patent is renewed or expired
  • patent is surrendered or revoked
  • assignment application is received
  • patent is assigned, either partially or in full

The IPO will not tell the applicant or patent owner of the patent that a caveat is in place.

Find out more about caveats and monitoring patent applications.