Rob’s Corner: Patents: A Different Approach

As the environmental problems facing our planet continue to grow, citizen awareness is growing in the media-saturated climate of today. And yet, we appear far short of any exceptional new technical solutions.

The inventions of the past that rule our society today – the petrol and diesel engines, the train, fuel cells, the jet engine, the bicycle, radar, the computer etc. – indicate how, historically, humanity has developed engineering technology, particularly in times of conflict and crisis. For example, the Second World War gave birth to a plethora of machines such as the jet engine, the rocket, the first form of the computer (using the Enigma Code breaking machine), radar and sonar, all as urgent reactions to this global conflict.

With this in mind, I believe we should, once again, embody this attitude in the treatment of our battle against the environmental deterioration of our planet.

So, what’s the solution?

We must recognise that society has modernised away from practical engineering. Fifty years ago, our towns and cities were bustling with engineering businesses that have now since disappeared. Most countries now rely on nations such as China to provide mechanically based products.

In comparison, the 1960s witnessed the government sponsored creation of the Concorde aircraft, yet it is difficult to believe the government today would follow in the footsteps of their predecessors because there is no affinity, by both politicians and the public at large, with a basic understanding, even empathy, with mechanical engineering in much of modern-day society.

Unfortunately, our pioneering manufacturing nation is not renowned for leading with global climate matters in mind. So, moving forward, in the avoidance of naivety, we must encourage, and promote new ideas, especially in the area of mechanical engineering.

A Way Forward: Patent Reform

The current mechanical climate needs something put in its place that allows for ease in the registration and publication of new ideas. Such an environment will then make new ideas more accessible to the general public, and, if popular, the manufacturing companies can then take over the product management with a newfound confidence of success. With regard to inventions, in the field of climate change, governments will also be exposed to the front-running of innovation and can call for judgement on how to help move these ideas forward.

Within the current patent system, new inventions and manufacturers stand at odds. Manufacturers conventionally resist new product inventions, demonstrated, in that approximately only 5% of proposed patents become new products.  The remaining 95% are mainly owned by competing manufacturing companies who seek to protect their existing products through the prevention of new developments.

To move forward, we must recognise that a true inventor is in many ways similar to a creative. For example, where an artist has colour, shapes and shading, the inventor expresses their creativity in the movement and relative positioning of objects. It is my firm belief that inventors should be treated in the same way as those in the arts and spared from the long and torturous process of patent law.

The Existing Patent System

In Brief, the current system requires a description, and claims which need to be written by a legal expert. This is followed by two searches to check that the invention is original. There then follows a delay, and the patent is fully completed after 3 years. The patent then lasts for up to 20 years, provided that an annual fee is paid, and the fee rises each year.

The Proposal

Before the presentation of the new system, a list of useful definitions and background information has been included here to aid the navigation of the patent process.


Definition – A new idea or concept which has the potential to be developed into a sellable functional product.

Invention Description

Written by the inventor, or a qualified engineer or scientist, the description accurately envisions the inventors’ exact wishes, whilst allowing for any impractical aspects to be corrected before the invention is submitted. The main description includes, among other things, a list of comparable inventions (aka “Prior Art”), and a comparison between Prior Art and the invention under application

Invention Summary

A brief description and diagram, or drawing, to aid searching on the internet. This summary acts separate to the description.


A single design of an invention-based product – not necessarily one that is owned by the applicant. I-Designs without patents can still be submitted, as some designs are either unpatentable or based on a previously expired patent.


The process of developing an invention from its concept to a finished product.


A licence for using an invention, in the manufacture and supply of a product, which is based on an I-Design. The aim of the patent is to give the manufacturer a monopoly in sales for a time period, long enough to get a head start in the market and recover any development or initial marketing costs.

The Innovation to Submission Process

  1.   An inventor submits an idea for an invention to the Intellectual Property Office (IPO), paying a single filing charge that registers their invention for 50 years similar to the copyright system, and must include a minimum of two I-Designs, with the option to feature any ‘Prior Art’ for comparison. The Invention Description is made public when the IPO has approved the submission.
  2.   The inventor, a separate business, or any private individual can submit an I-Design based on the invention, paying a single filing charge to register their design for 20 years. The I-Design is made public in a simplistic visual representation form.
  3.   A Patent is to protect a manufacturer from competitors whilst the product is being developed. It can be applied for once an I-Design has been submitted and will be based on that singular I-Design. In order to cover the life of the patent, the applicant will pay a single fee.
  4.   The Patent office will then conduct a single search covering five years prior to the application. If the outcome of one design is showing a similarity greater than 90% to another, the application will fail.
  5.   If successful, the Patent will last for 5 years barring two specific circumstances:
    1.  If the product type is rapidly changing the protection period may be reduced to 3 years.
    2.   If the product has seen little or no change, the period of cover can be increased to 7 years.
  6.   In the event of a failure to recover costs and become established within the market during the first 5 years, the time length of the patent can be extended discretionary by the IPO. In order to achieve this, the manufacturer must prove that they have not recovered the development costs plus 100%.

The Fees

The initial Patenting fee should include:

  1. Search costs
  2. Patent Office operational fee
  3.  A single fixed nominal amount paid to the inventor via the Intellectual Property Office in recognition of the intellectual ability.
  4. A single fixed nominal amount paid to the I-Design creator


The annual renewing fee should include:

  1.   Patent Office operational fee
  2.   Separate fund payment in case another inventor can prove that they also invented the product, or that they also created an I-Design of the products


These payments are not recoverable.

Dealing with unknown Prior Art

Should another inventor claim and prove invention rights through their patent number, a nominal amount must be paid to them by the IPO (obtained from the annual patent fee).

Dealing with unknown Prior Art

Should another inventor claim and prove invention rights through their patent number, a nominal amount must be paid to them by the IPO (obtained from the annual patent fee).


Currently, confidentiality of concept and design is paramount to allowing the inventor to develop their invention, without the pressure of competition. However, with the rise of modern CAD design systems and automatic manufacturing machinery, this is becoming less important. Inventions today are valued more for manufacturer reputation, delivery speed, quality consistency and for end-user products, often aesthetics.

The diminishing need for confidentiality also reflects the attraction of increased publicity as a form of promotion for competing manufacturers. After all, if an inventor can publicise their inventions at the concept stage, decision makers will resultantly have a greater range to choose from, and in order to move forward in addressing our climate issues, new inventions must be considered as important contributors to conserving the world we live in. 


Photographer: Dickenson V. Alley Restored by Lošmi, Nikola Tesla, with his equipment EDIT, CC BY-SA 4.0