The UK Intellectual Property Office has recently launched two new patent databases following recommendations from the Gowers Report on Intellectual Property.
The original database has been split into two so that now, one database contains all patents in force in the UK which are endorsed Licence of Right, and therefore open for licensing, and the other contains all UK patents which are no longer in force (i.e. inventions which are no longer protected.)
In the UK, patent protection lasts for twenty years, during which time the inventor gets a monopoly over use of his invention.
A patent gives the owner the right to stop others from copying, manufacturing, selling, and importing the invention. The existence of a patent may be enough on its own to stop others from trying to exploit the invention. If it does not, it gives the owner of the invention the right to take legal action to stop them exploiting the invention and to claim damages.
A patent also allows the owner to:
sell the invention and all the intellectual property rights
license the invention to someone else but retain all the intellectual property rights
discuss the invention with others in order to set up a business based around the invention.
The public also benefit from a patent because the UK Intellectual Property Office publish it after 18 months. Others can then gain advance knowledge of technological developments which they will eventually be able to use freely once the patent ceases.