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Applying for a patent

Before you apply for a patent, you need to keep a written record of your invention, to help to prove you are the inventor (laboratory notebooks, manuals, prototypes etc.).

You must keep the invention secret before you apply for a patent. Disclosure to anyone, anywhere, anyhow without the use of a confidentiality agreement will invalidate the patent.

Seek professional advice before making your application.

As with other forms of IP, if the invention has resulted as part of an employee's official duties, then the patent can be owned by the employer.

The patent application process

The patent application process can be very complex.

A lack of knowledge and experience in this area can result in a failed, inappropriate or unenforceable application, or a registered patent that does not adequately protect your whole innovation or its commercial aspects. A qualified patent attorney should be consulted to help navigate any potential problems.

The process of filing a patent application is also demanding, with milestones for lodging the completed application and undergoing examination procedures within strict time frames. A qualified professional has systems in place to make sure that these milestones are completed at the appropriate time.

Patent applications are examined by IP Australia and, if accepted, are published. Others then have a limited time (3 months) to oppose the patent.

See IP Australia for an overview of the typical patent application process in Australia.

Patent application costs

The average estimated cost (depending on the complexity of your application) for:

  • an Australian standard patent, including drafting and lodging the specification and providing prosecution arguments, inclusive of IP Australia and attorney fees, is generally from $8,000 to $20,000. These costs vary depending on the complexity of the drafting as well as the nature of the prosecution (arguments) process. For example, biotechnology specifications can be over 100 pages. Maintenance fees over a 20-year term would be a further $10,000
  • a 'worldwide' patent across 10 jurisdictions would be at least $150,000, plus maintenance costs. In reality, there is no such thing as a worldwide patent. Each country requires individual registration, with the exception of Europe, where many countries can be covered by a single patent. However, the initial process of claiming patent rights globally is simplified by the Patent Cooperation Treaty application process, whereby initial rights may be reserved in a very large number of countries at the same time. It will cost about $20,000 for a Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) application to be filed and, once the patenting process has commenced, you are locked into pre-defined time frames according to the rules in various countries, as well as rules of the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO). Speak with your patent attorney about all the costs and time associated with worldwide patenting.

See IP Australia for a full list of statutory fees and methods of payment for Australian patents.

Also consider...

  • IP Australia provides information about patents. Topics include: about the application process; how to search for a patent; how to apply for a patent; and how to renew your patent.
  • The Institute of Patent and Trade Mark Attorneys of Australia is a representative body for Australian patent and trademark attorneys. This site provides the latest news and resource information about patent and trademark law in Australia.
  • A directory of registered attorneys is published by the Trans-Tasman IP Attorneys Board—a group that administers the patent attorney professions in Australia and New Zealand and the trademarks profession in Australia.