Last updated: 
22 December 2015

Applying for a patent can be a complex and time-consuming process.

We have outlined all the steps that need to be taken in order to ensure that the process is smooth.

  1. Search patent databases, sales brochures and magazines to ensure your invention has not been created by someone else. If your invention was publicly known before you apply for a patent, you won't be able to get a patent.
  2. Decide which type of patent best suits your invention. You may wish to file a provisional application first; then decide between filing a standard, innovation or an international patent (PCT) application.
  3. Once it is filed, your application is checked and published. Please note that fees are payable at different stages of the patent process. An innovation patent is checked to ensure it satisfies the formality requirements, then granted and published in the official journal. A standard patent is normally published in the official journal before examination.
  4. Examination is mandatory before a standard patent can be granted and must be requested by the applicant. An innovation patent will be examined if examination is requested but this is not a requirement for an innovation patent to be granted. Examination of an innovation patent can only happen after it is granted. For either an innovation or standard patent to be enforceable, it must have been examined. Examination can also be expedited for standard patents, or expedited under the Global Patent Prosecution Highway (GPPH) or expedited under the IP Australia-European Patent Office Patent Prosecution Highway (IP Australia-EPO PPH).
  5. Acceptance and grant of an innovation patent occurs if it has satisfied the formality requirements. It is then published as such in the official journal. If examination is requested and found successful then the innovation patent will be certified and published once again. A standard patent application is accepted once it has been examined and is then published. The standard patent is then granted if it is not opposed.
  6. Pay annual fees to maintain your patent. Innovation patents can be renewed for up to eight years and standard patents can be renewed for up to 20 years (up to 25 years for pharmaceuticals).

Some common problems

Many patent applications that are filed without professional help are not successful for one or more of the following reasons:

  • The original patent specification, whether provisional or complete, does not describe the invention properly.
  • The invention is not new because the applicant disclosed it to the public before applying for a patent.
  • The invention is not new because the applicant disclosed it to the public after filing a provisional application that did not adequately describe the invention; i.e. the provisional application did not provide an effective priority date.
  • The invention is not new when compared with things that are already known; e.g. it has been published in an earlier patent document.
  • The application is for something that is not patentable, such as a principle or idea, rather than its practical adaptation.

More information

More details can be found in our Patents Guide.