The energy industry’s progress relies on innovation, and the patent process is an essential part of ensuring that innovation translates into real-world applications that benefit both the industry and the inventors behind it.

Patents are intellectual property assets that protect inventions, contributing to the economy by ensuring that inventors and businesses are rewarded for the investment they make in their innovation.

Popular patents in the renewables sector include artificial intelligence (AI), robotics and electronics. We work with many companies to pursue patent protection for their technologies, including Great Yarmouth-based CeraPhi Energy.

Innovation owned by CeraPhi includes:

- The design and installation of a downhole heat exchange system.

- The design and implementation of the project management system for its geothermal CeraPhiWell.

- The design and implementation of the project management system for its geothermal CeraPhiPro™.

Patents can be enforced to prevent infringement of the rights that they protect. You might not want anyone else to go into the market, so you can keep exclusive use of your innovation.

Another approach that can be adopted is for patents to be licensed to third parties, which allows other people to benefit from the innovation, while the owner receives royalties in return.

An additional purpose is that patents can be valuable assets that can be bought and sold, often as part of the sale of a business. Patents can be used as collateral when borrowing or used to demonstrate business value when raising capital.

Patent attorneys at ip21 assist inventors to protect their innovation by drafting and filing patent applications, prosecuting them through to grant, and assessing the value of the intellectual property assets that are created.

Eastern Daily Press: Dr Mark Saunders, senior associate at ip21 Limited Dr Mark Saunders, senior associate at ip21 Limited (Image: ip21)
Patent applications typically take several years to progress to grant. Patents have a maximum term of up to 20 years, with annual renewal fees to keep them in force.

To qualify for patent protection, an invention must be novel, inventive, capable of industrial application, and not be excluded from patentability.

Although computer programs are excluded from patent protection, software can sometimes be protected by focussing on the technical effects that are achieved outside or within the computer.

It’s important to file a patent application before any product launch or disclosure to anyone who is not bound by a duty of confidentiality. This ensures that the applicant doesn’t undermine their own position by making something public that is then cited against their own patent application.

To encourage green technology development, the UK Government has implemented the Green Channel, which is a system for accelerating patent applications relating to innovation that is environmentally-friendly. Similar schemes exist in other countries as well.

A common way of deferring legal costs is to file a UK patent application, and then file an international application within 12 months, which provides the opportunity to delay in choosing from over 150 jurisdictions.

A European patent application allows patent protection to be pursued in all 27 EU member states, along with 12 other European states, including the UK.

A key benefit of applying for patent protection is that it secures a filing date while inventors continue to develop their innovation. International treaties are in place to ensure that the filing date is respected by jurisdictions around the world.