Patent Box offers tax savings on innovation

Out-Law News | 24 Oct 2019 | 10:20 am | 1 min. read

Many businesses are unaware of the tax savings they could make by electing innovative technologies they own patents for into the UK's Patent Box regime, an expert in intellectual property and licensing laws has said.

Belfast-based James Griffiths of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law, highlighted the scale of the savings businesses could make through the Patent Box in a recent article published by The Irish News. The article was published after Northern Ireland was ranked as the lowest region in the latest UK innovation survey.

"Businesses which undertake work aimed towards advancing science or technology may be eligible for research and development tax reliefs," Griffiths said. "Additionally by electing into the Patent Box regime, companies are allowed to pay tax on qualifying profits earned from its qualifying patents or patented inventions at just 10%, which could potentially save them tens if not hundreds of thousands of pounds in tax each year. However, to date the take-up on the Patent Box regime by businesses in Northern Ireland is fairly low."

According to Griffiths, businesses should focus on innovation and seek to protect and make money from it as intellectual property. He explained the different rights that copyright, trade marks and patents can provide, and warned businesses against inadvertently invalidating their chances to obtain patent protection for genuinely novel inventions they create.

"If your business creates something innovative and genuinely novel, before that is put anywhere near the public you should pause and consider applying for patent protection," Griffiths said. "If the invention is made public, whether via being put on the market or via a patent application published in a different jurisdiction, it could serve to invalidate any subsequent patent application because, ironically, your invention will not be deemed as 'novel' by virtue of your own product or process being more widely known by that point."

Griffiths advised businesses to undertake an audit to understand what IP rights they hold and identify where protection is lacking. He said IP "should be part of a business's wider strategic planning efforts" and that businesses should have it "high on the agenda" to consider how to "monitor the market and act to negate any potential infringement of your IP rights".

Griffiths said: "If they are established and enforced properly, IP rights can be immensely valuable assets for a business. They can confer exclusive rights to the use and exploitation of business names, logos, products, processes, designs, written works, etc., and prevent others from taking advantage of your reputation and goodwill. They can also be monetised to great effect beyond your own use of the IP, by licensing the IP to other businesses; selling or assigning the IP rights; or using the IP as security for loans if the IP rights are of sufficient value."