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Business Secretary announces 'superfast' patent processing service

17 December 2012

Business secretary, Vince Cable has launched a range of measures designed to improve services to business, strengthen enforcement, and help consumers get the most out of creative products and services.

Vince Cable
Vince Cable

The plans, which are described as involving a step change in the way the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) delivers services, include:

- launching a superfast patent processing service to deliver patents in just 90 days and a faster trade marks examination service which will deliver a full examination report in five days, instead of ten

- a campaign to educate smaller businesses about getting the best value from their creativity and innovation;
action to help consumers and young people understand the importance of respect for IP and the harm counterfeiting or illegal downloading can do
- working with key partners, such as the City of London Police, to tackle IP crime such as counterfeiting and online piracy.

The new measures, which will come into effect next year, aim to encourage and help businesses get the best value from their ideas and boost growth.

The Intellectual Property Office (IPO) will also expand the way it operates, moving beyond just granting rights to doing more to support businesses in understanding the opportunities available to them at home and abroad. This will include piloting an IP advisory service for small and medium businesses with high-growth potential. The IPO will work more closely with organisations where businesses already go for advice such as trade associations, UKTI, chambers of commerce, banks and accountants.

There will also be further strengthening of the IPO’s IP attaché network which places a business attaché in challenging overseas markets to help British businesses and encourage improvements to the nation’s IP environment. In 2013, a new attaché will be placed in Singapore to serve South Asian markets, supporting those already in place in China, India and Brazil.

The UK will host an enforcement summit next summer inviting countries from around the world to share best practice and work together to combat problems.

Keith Hodkinson, chairman of Marks & Clerk International, comments: “It remains to be seen how attractive such an accelerated patent grant regime would be. Until the full details are published there are many unanswered questions and it is those answers that will cause applicants to take a view one way or the other on whether to use the system proposed.

“Will the procedure be available only on UK originating applications (“first flings”) or will it extend to applications claiming priority from overseas applications ("Paris Convention filings"); how much extra will one have to pay for such accelerated grant of a UK patent; what preconditions in terms of numbers of claims or technology will there be; what deadlines will be set for applicants to respond to objections as to patentability in order to remain “accelerated”; has the UK IPO assessed what the demand for accelerated grant will be (how much take up has there been of the patent prosecution highway, also designed to speed up the process?); will the number of cases granted such accelerated prosecution be rationed; what adverse impact will this have on the time taken to deal with ordinary applications; will there be shortcuts such as limited prior art searches, pre-filing search requirements or tighter unity of invention requirements; will applicants want to accelerate the costs of their application? 

“There are potentially adverse implications for third parties who will not have the same ability to submit observations on patentability as exists now, or to respond to a possible patent infringement problem by redesigning their own product; there will inevitability be questions over the quality and validity of such patents. Early grant must mean early publication which can be adverse to the interests of a party wanting to seek overseas protection in some cases. 

“The rapid grant of a patent in the UK could make the system very attractive to some larger overseas applicants frustrated by the slow progress of European Patents who might file in parallel to the UK, later abandoning the UK patent when the corresponding European Patent (UK) or Unitary Patent is granted (since the two types of patent – UK national and EP/UP cannot coexist). The additional costs to them would be fairly small. This could enable them to take early effective court action against UK infringements and defendants and with the benefit of earlier searches in play they could enjoy very rapid progress to grant. They might be the biggest beneficiaries, rather than UK SMEs.

“There seems little gain in examining a trade mark in 5 days as opposed to 10 days in most cases, given that many applicants will in any event have conducted prior searches and been advised on registrability. The main beneficiaries will be very small enterprises and individuals but the question then arises as to how much extra accelerated examination will cost them and whether 5 days is mission critical.”

David Price, head of piracy intelligence at NetNames comments: “As the government launches a welcome initiative to help businesses exploit and protect their creations and innovations, it is important that companies understand the many perils that can arise from unwelcome online attention.

"In today’s digital world, it is critical for brands to help consumers understand the importance of using legitimate sites and the value of purchasing legitimate products, not just to maintain the credibility of their online shopping but to protect themselves online from fake goods and unknown suppliers. 

"Organisations need the ability to monitor the internet for any unapproved use of company information. By carefully patrolling online sites for possible counterfeits or by introducing tools and processes that can immediately alert a brand holder when a domain name featuring their brand, trademark or intellectual property is registered, for instance, organisations can maintain full control over intellectual property and make it tougher for online-criminals to profit from digital brand abuse.

"The internet is a vast market that offers untold potential for business but without adequate brand protection, businesses can see their hard-earned work devalued in seconds by counterfeiters and criminals.”

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