In contrast to copyright or the law of confidential information, patent protection does not arise automatically and the filing of an application for a patent, followed by its grant, is necessary in order to obtain protection. A patent is a negative right which permits the inventor to stop third parties from using the invention. Patents, and applications for patents, are intangible property rights. Under English law, they are treated as personal property and may be assigned (section 30(1) and (2), Patents Act). The proprietor of a patent may also grant licences in respect of all or some of the claims incorporated in the patent, on whatever terms it chooses, subject to competition law considerations (section 30(4), Patents Act). Patents can also be mortgaged as security (section 30(2), Patents Act). In the UK, as in many other countries, all legal interests in and transactions relating to patents must be registered.
When a matter is taken to court, parties can, in some instances, make an offer to reach an agreement before the dispute proceeds to trial