According to the UKIPO, patents protect the technical and functional aspects of products and processes. If you are thinking of applying for a patent, make sure your creation is new and inventive. There should not be anything like it already available. Be careful about discussing your idea. If you want to run it by friends or experts, get them to sign an agreement that they will keep your information under wraps. This is known as a non-disclosure agreement. Make sure as well to hire a patent lawyer to help you throughout the process of patenting and to provide quality intellectual property services. Look at what else is available on the market and think about who might buy your item to make sure it is commercially viable before investing your time and money.
Patent searches and costs
There is a free online search of registered patents at http://gb.espacenet.com. It costs an initial £30 to apply, there is a fee of £100 for the UKIPO to search to ensure your design is unique, and then you pay a further £75 for them to examine your application. The process takes at least two years. You need to have a description of your product, drawings, claims for what it does, and a technical summary in order to fill in the initial application forms on the UKIPO site. You may incur further costs during the process getting your product information and prototypes up to standard. You may want the help of a patent agent to get the application wording watertight.
A patent protects your creation for up to 20 years, but you need to renew it in its fifth year and annually after that. You should also think about whether you want to apply for protection for your invention overseas. Some countries allow you to extend your UK patent, others have treaties on patents under which you apply, or you may have to apply to patent offices in individual countries.