What you can and cannot patent

The GOV.UK website offers the following guidance if you are considering a patent application.

A UK patent may help if you want to take legal action against someone who uses your invention without your permission. For example, if they sell or manufacture your product in the UK.

A patent lasts 5 years. If you want it to stay in force after that, you must renew it every year, up to a maximum of 20 years.

What you can patent

Your invention must be:

  • new – it must not have been made publicly available anywhere in the world, for example it must not be described in a publication
  • inventive – for example, it cannot be an obvious change to something that already exists
  • either something that can be made and used, a technical process, or a method of doing something

What you cannot patent

Things you cannot patent include:

  • literary, dramatic, musical or artistic works
  • a way of doing business, playing a game or thinking
  • a method of medical treatment or diagnosis
  • a discovery, scientific theory or mathematical method
  • the way information is presented
  • ‘essentially biological’ processes like cross-breeding animals or varieties of plants
  • software that has a ‘non-technical’ purpose

Only software with a technical purpose can be granted a patent. For example, software to control a driverless car could have a patent, while a chess playing app could not. If your invention is software, you may need professional advice whether it can be patented (for example, by consulting with a patent attorney).



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