If you feel you have an idea worthy of protection it is necessary to obtain a patent.In the UK this will be at the UK Patent Office. The grant of a patent is not automatic. The grant of a patent will take skill time and money. You have to work at the process.
When do I file is probably best answered with as soon as you can. First past the post generally wins the cigar. You can file working inventions within one year of the application but best to do so at the time of the application.
Section 2(3), Patents Act 1977 states that the state of the art in the case of an invention to which an application for a patent or a patent relates shall be taken also to comprise matter contained in an application for another patent which was published on or after the priority date of that invention. So it is useful to get all your ducks lined up and filed in one go.
To obtain a filing number and be able to claim priority you need the following four things. Priority is importance to establish novelty.
A request for grant of a patent on the appropriate form.
The Applicant’s contact details.
The application must contain a description of the invention known as the specification or alternatively a reference to an earlier application for the same invention, there is a £30 fee
Novelty is important. An invention must not form part of the state of the art. This means it must not have been made available to the public or disclosed other than under conditions of confidentiality, before the priority date of the patent (section 2(1) and (2), Patents Act). It is, therefore, vital that you never disclose the invention before the first patent application has been filed. You can file and then announce without fear of invalidating the patent application.Although ideally you should wait until the application is published.
In addition to ensuring the patent is novel and inventive. The following must be completed:-
The specification must be described in a way which a person skilled in the art (section 14(3), Patents Act, implementing Article 83, EPC) can produce the invention.
Section 14 (5) states that the claims must relate to one invention only or to a group of inventions so linked as to form a single inventive concept (section 14(5)(d), Patents Act, implementing Article 82, EPC).
Section 14(5)(a)-(c) of the Patents Act, implementing Article 84, EPC, The claims must:
define the matter for which protection is sought;
be clear and concise; and
be supported by the description of the invention.