Yes, you can.
Well, in the US, anyway.
The patent granted protection for a Christmas Stocking, as shown above, which would “signal the arrival of Santa Claus by illuminating externally visible light…having a power source located within…the device”.
But would something like this be patentable in the UK? The answer may not be as simple as you think.
Firstly, let’s consider what a “patent” actually is and the level of protection it grants to the owner.
In the UK and EU, a registered patent will allow the owner a monopoly to make, use and sell an invention to the specification described in the patent registration for a period of 20 years from filing (subject to payment of annual renewal fees). In other words, in exchange for disclosing to the public how certain “inventive” products function, the owner is granted the right to exclusively exploit that technology for a fixed period of time.
However, in order for a patent to be granted in the first place, an application must fulfil various requirements:
Firstly, the applicant must demonstrate that the invention is “novel” (in other words, it must not have been disclosed publically anywhere in the world prior to filing).
Secondly, the invention must have “inventive step” – or rather, it must not be the next obvious step in developing the invention to the notional individual skilled in the particular subject area. This is often a grey area.
Finally, an invention must also be capable of “industrial application”. This means that the invention must have some application in a particular industry (usually by being a piece of apparatus, a product or process).
Patent law is a complex area, but here are some of our main tips for giving your Christmas invention the best chance of success:
i) ensure that any disclosures of the invention which would enable the recipient of such information to understand how an invention works are restricted to individuals with whom you have a signed non-disclosure agreement. Such agreements will prevent disclosures from preventing or invalidating a patent application;
ii) have an idea of which similar inventions already exist. We can assist with conducting a “prior art” search for patents and inventions which may prevent your application from fulfilling the “novelty” or “inventive step” requirement, before you incur the often substantial cost of preparing and filing the application; and
iii) be aware of the “priority” period. If you are unable to fund patent applications in every relevant territory, be aware that (from the date of your initial patent application) you will benefit from being able to file similar applications in other territories for a 12 month period from the initial filing date and back-date those applications to the date of the initial filing.
If you have your own Santa Clause Detector, why not see if it’s something that may be patentable. Feel free to contact the team on firstname.lastname@example.org for an initial consultation.
Written by Tom Broster.