UK Application Process

A UK patent application is merely a formal application to the UK Patent Office, providing legal protection of the invention within the UK alone. The length of the process varies as a result of a number of variables, but on average the decision to grant could be received in just over 36 months, with a life of 20 years from the date of initial application.

The following steps lead to grant of a UK patent for an invention.


For some inventions, it is prudent to make a search for prior relevant patents. Searches can be made to check that the invention is patentable and/or that its production will not infringe another’s patent. Certain inventions can be characterised by a few words and therefore cheaply searched via a computer database. Others require manual searching.


An informal application gives provisional protection for one year. It must include a specification describing the invention in correct legal and technical terminology.

Please note, an initial application must be made before the invention is put into production or in any way disclosed out of confidence.


Within one year of the initial application, claims must be added to the application to legally define the invention. If further developments have been made, a new application may be made which claims the date of the informal application. At this time the inventor must be identified, the Patent Office search requested and foreign applications, if any, made.

A British patent gives protection only in the UK. Foreign applications can be made to individual national patent offices, e.g. the US Patent Office, or to the European Patent office in the case of the major European countries. An International (PCT) route exists and is often advisable.

After some three months, the British Patent Office issues a search report. In another three months, the application including its specification is published in printed form.

IV) EXAMINATION (Roughly 2 ½ years from date of informal application)

Within six months of publication of the application, an examination fee must be paid to the Patent Office. After another six months or so, a report raising objections is likely to be received. These are scarcely ever insuperable, but may mean that that the application will have to be amended.

V) GRANT (Roughly 3 ½ years from date of informal application)

Once the objections have been overcome, the patent will be granted. The significance of grant is that after grant infringers can be sued. If infringements are marketed before grant, damages can be claimed from the date of publication.

UK Patent Application Costs


Simple Case Typical Case Complex Case
Initial Search £150 £300 £900
Informal Application £1,200 £1,600 £2,600
Formal Application £1,100 £1,900 £3,000
Examination Request £600 £800 £1,300
Examination Objection £0 £600 £1,400
Total – incl. Official fees excl. VAT £3,050 £5,200 £9,200


The above cost range shows the difference between very simple inventions and reasonably complex ones. A rule of thumb is that a British patent costs about £4,000 + VAT over 4 years (including searching).

Foreign patents are considerably more expensive, especially where translation is required. For instance, the cost (ex VAT) at that stage of a British formal application can be:

Simple Case Typical Case Complex Case
International, PCT Application £5,000 £7,500 £11,000
European Patent Application £7,500 £9,500 £11,500
US Application £3,800 £5,800 £9,500


The PCT route delays major expense, although there is an element of duplication which is generally offset by other advantages. Please see the “PCT Application” section for more information.

Please note that further cost is incurred during the prosecution of the foreign applications – as with a British application. The cost of translation on grant of a European Patent is heavy. Effective cover in major market countries and competitor manufacturing countries can cost between £30,000 and £50,000.