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UK Patents: The Requirements (Part Three)

Written by Aasim Durrani on 25 July 2011

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A patent is an intellectual property right relating to an invention. It lasts for 20 years and gives the patent holder (usually the inventor) the exclusive right to use exploit their invention during this time. An invention must satisfy four conditions in order to be capable of being granted a patent. It must:

- be new

- involve an inventive step

- be capable of use in an industrial setting

- not fall within an exclusion

This article will examine the third requirement; that an invention be capable of use in industry.

This requirement underlines the principle that patent protection is intended to attach itself to actual inventions rather than ideas which may or may not be utilised to produce an invention. This was illustrated in the case of Duckett v Patent Office (2005), where an invention was rejected on the basis that the method of powering the device ran contrary to the laws of physics.

It is important for inventors to avoid falling foul of this requirement by not giving enough detail when they come to apply for a patent. In the well known case of Rex v Arkwright (1785), the applicant's patent for a cotton spinning machine failed when objections were raised on the basis that the application did not contain enough technical information.

This requirement is, in practice, largely dealt with under the fourth requirement for patent protection; that an invention should not fall within the list of exclusions. Accordingly, few applications fail on the basis of this requirement.

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