How to manage your patents
Objecting to patent applications
If you discover that a competitor has filed an application for a patent that you believe should not be allowed, you may want to oppose the application. There are several ways you can object to an application, and for several reasons.
Observations on grounds of patentability
You can tell the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) if you believe that an invention is not patentable - ie not new or inventive. This is known as 'making observations'.
Some of the grounds for opposing a patent application may involve:
- prior art or prior use - if the invention isn't novel
- obviousness - if the invention lacks an inventive step
- not an invention - the subject matter of the application is not patentable
- insufficiency - the specification doesn't explain how to put the patent into practice
To determine if an invention meets the criteria for a patent, see can I patent my idea or invention.
How to file patent observations
You should support your observations with evidence wherever possible. For example, you could provide a dated magazine or journal article which shows the invention before the application's earliest filing date. If you claim that something is well known in the industry, you must show that this was the case before the application's earliest filing date.
You should file your observations with the IPO in writing, electronically or by post. Timing is important - you should file your observation:
- at any point after the IPO publish a patent application
- before they grant the patent in question
- before they issue a notification of their intent to grant the patent
It is recommended that you file observations within three months of publication, as the IPO may grant application after this time. The IPO will consider your observations when deciding if they should grant a patent.
Learn more about making patent observations.
After the patent is granted, there are limited ways in which you may be able to challenge and oppose the validity of the patent. See post-grant opposition of patents.