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What is a Patent?

Patents are granted for inventions. A patent provides a legal monopoly that can be used by its owner (the patentee) to prevent others from using the patented invention. Patents can be very strong intellectual property rights that may be used to preserve exclusivity in the marketplace for up to twenty years. This often allows companies to charge a premium for patented goods or services whilst their patent is in force.

Patent infringement

Operating within a patented monopoly may be an act of patent infringement. If the patent owner decides to sue, the main remedies that are available in the UK are an injunction and monetary compensation (damages). In the UK, patent infringement cases are split into two parts. First, the Judge will determine whether the defendant has carried out acts (infringing acts) within the scope of the patented monopoly. If the defendant is found to infringe, the Judge will usually award an injunction. In the second part of the procedure, the Judge will determine how much compensation the defendant should pay.

The scope of the patent monopoly

In a patent infringement case, the Judge will focus on the meaning of the claims contained at the end of the patent specification, since these determine the scope of the legal monopoly. The Judge carries out this exercise of claim construction with the aid of technical information contained in the patent, often with the assistance of experts.


One of the standard defences for a company that has been sued for patent infringement is to say that the patent is invalid and should not have been granted. This involves proving that the invention is not new, or that it lacks an inventive step, in the sense that it was obvious to a person of appropriate skill in the relevant technical field. For further information on the legal grounds for challenging the validity of a patent, please contact the head of our Dispute Resolution team, Duncan Curley.


For more information on the topics below, please click on the links:

How to knock out a Patent Patent Strategy Patent Awareness
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