There are two separate systems,
for Invention Patents and for Design Patents. Invention Patents receive
protection for 17 years, and Design Patents receive 3½, 7 or 14 years
protection, depending upon the period asked and the fee paid.
The patents are applied for in a
formal manner, by establishing the name and location of the inventor, a brief
description of the subject of the patent, then a detailed specification
referring to accompanying drawings (if any), and finally the claims relating
to the novel features of the patent. The claims are written by a Patent
Attorney, usually couched in terms that provide little resemblance to the
intended end-product, but are the most important legal part of the document.
Upon receipt of the application, a serial number is assigned to the patent and
Patent Office Examiners make an extensive examination and a comparison with
earlier patents, to establish the unique quality of the claims before the
patent is granted. At the time of the grant the patent receives its official
number. This period of examination may last only for two or three months, but
can last for several years if there is any question as to the validity of the
The patent is dated from the date
of the grant; not, as in most countries, from the date of the application.
Until ca.1940 manufactured
patented objects, both Inventions and Designs, were marked with the patent
date; this can lead to some confusion in a patent search. Later the full
number was marked on the object, and Design Patent numbers were preceded by
the letter D.
Invention Patents are dated from
the day of submission of the Provisional Specifications, when the patent is
assigned a number. Protection is provided for a period of 16 years, subject to
paying the required annual fees. The Complete Specifications are provided soon
after (or they may form the only specifications submitted); when granted,
another number may be assigned. The system is generally far more complex than
that of the United States.
Designs are registered in a
different manner at the Public Record Office, and many changes occurred over a
period of about 80 years. The protection is only one to three years.