European Union: A Guide To How Patent Law Works

Last Updated: 14 June 2018
Article by Gowling WLG

Patent and intellectual property laws are essential to enabling organisations to be able to gain protection for the innovations that they develop.

The result of the latest dispute between Apple and Samsung has highlighted the importance of patents and intellectual property when taking products to market.

According to the BBC, the dispute between the two technology giants began back in 2011 when Apple argued that Samsung had infringed patents associated with the iPhone. A year later, Apple was awarded $1.05 billion in damages and Samsung has fought against the ruling ever since.

In the latest verdict, a damages payment of $539 million was awarded to Apple for the infringement of the design patents and two patented functions.

Samsung has stated that they should only have to pay Apple $28 million because they believe that the sum should be limited to profits directly related to the components or features covered by the patents. Apple argued for the much larger figure calculated on the profits made from an entire iPhone. While the latter has been awarded a damages claim it is less than a quarter of the sum of $2.5 billion that they originally asked for.

Patents are crucial to protecting the futures of products and inventions to ensure that their profitability is only enjoyed by those that developed them.

What is a patent?

A patent is granted by the government and enables an inventor to have the right to restrict others, for a stated time period, from making, using or selling an invention without permission. Not everything is patentable. For an invention to be eligible for protection it must be new. It must not have been made public in any way before the application is filed. It must also be considered "inventive" it cannot just be a basic modification of something that already exists. An invention also needs to be able to be used by some kind of industry to be issued with protection.

Some inventions are not patentable. For example, if it is a scientific theory or mathematical method it cannot be issued with a patent. Aesthetic creations such as literary, dramatic or artistic works are also not eligible for protection. Before beginning the process of registering your invention it is advisable to ascertain whether it fits with the eligibility criteria.

What kinds of patents are there?

There are two systems which may grant a patent that cover the UK: the national system and the European system. Each of the systems can be preceded by an application made under the international system.

A patent application made under the national system is made to the UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO). Any natural or legal person may make an application in the UK, as long as they are the inventor or entitled to the property in it.

An application made under the European system is made to the European Patent Office (EPO). It enables the centralised application, prosecution and grant of patents. It's an easier and cheaper alternative than filing individual applications if you want protection in multiple countries that are part of the European Patent Convention (EPC).

What are the steps to obtaining a patent?

When applying under the national system, the first step to obtaining protection for an invention is to file an application which then provides a date of filing. The application will need to include a written description of the invention, any drawings and (optionally at filing, but needed within 12 months) claims and an abstract.

If the requirements are met and the fees are paid, the application process will then include a preliminary examination, grant and publication. The protection will be for a term of 20 years from the date of filing the application as long as the renewal fees are paid.

The fees to be paid to the UK Intellectual Property Office for processing the application are usually around £300-400, in addition to any professional services costs.

How do you maintain a patent?

After the fourth anniversary of filing, the patent will need to be renewed annually. Renewal fees are payable on the last day of the month in which the application was originally filed and increase each year. If a renewal fee is not paid within the stated period the patent will lapse.

However, if the renewal fee and late payment fee are paid within 6 months of the due date, the patent would be viewed as though it had never expired. If 6 months has passed from the renewal date, the only way to restore protection is through making an application to the Comptroller. The Comptroller will reinstate protection if they are satisfied that the failure to pay was unintentional.

What protection does a patent provide?

If a third party's actions infringe (or would infringe) a patent, the court will award relief to counter the statutory tort of infringement. It's important to note that the patent's mere existence does not entitle the proprietor (owner) to relief. Relief is awarded by the order of the court when an infringement (or threatened infringement) is found that enables the need to protect the monopoly that has been granted.

How can a patent be infringed?

In the UK, there are a number of ways in which a patent can be infringed and therefore enable the proprietor to make an application to court.

If the invention is a product then it is an infringement to make, dispose of, offer to dispose of, use, import or keep it without the consent of the proprietor.

If the invention is a process then it would be an infringement to use or offer it for use in the UK without the consent of the proprietor. It would also be an infringement to dispose of, use or import any product that is obtained directly through that process or to keep such a product for disposal or otherwise.

Why are patents needed?

As seen in the Apple vs. Samsung case, patents are essential to protecting your intellectual property. The protection offered enables you to pursue legal action when your product or innovation has been taken advantage of without your consent. It will ensure that you have the right to pursue any profit that you may have lost through your intellectual property being misused.

Our Insights and Resources are recommended for businesses considering the application process for patent protection. We will update you regularly with information from our legal experts on intellectual property law, as well as other sectors and services you may be interested in.

Sign up for Intellectual Property updates

Read the original article on

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
In association with
Related Topics
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions