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New IP Bill will give greater protection claims Lord Younger

12 May 2013

UK businesses who want to protect their products and technologies through patents and design rights will be better off as a result of a new Intellectual Property (IP) Bill.

The Bill, tabled on Friday (May 10) by IP Minister Lord Younger, proposes changes that would help businesses to better understand what is protected under the law, reduce the need for costly litigation, and provide greater certainty for investors in new designs and technologies.

Key elements of the Bill include:
- New powers to enable the UK to implement the Unitary Patent Court Agreement. The Court is a central part in introducing a single patent across almost all EU countries. It is estimated that this would lead to direct benefits to business of £40 million per year. It is also anticipated that the London Court, which will adjudicate on pharmaceutical and life sciences patent disputes, will benefit the economy an estimated £200 million per annum.

- The introduction of criminal penalties for copying UK registered designs and the strengthening of design protection. This is already the case for copyright and trademark disputes and brings parity to this area of IP law.

- Proposals for a designs opinion service and an expanded patents opinions service. This would allow design or patent rights holders, or anyone else to ask the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) to provide an expert opinion on whether a UK design or patent is valid or being infringed. This will help businesses assess the strength of their case before embarking on more formal and costly legal proceedings, and may help avoid litigation altogether.

Business Secretary, Vince Cable said that UK business invests nearly £16 billion in design each year, which represents 1.1 percent of GDP. "The changes in this Bill are to help SMEs and innovative businesses get on and grow. By reforming and simplifying IP rules and making them easier to understand, we aim to help businesses protect their innovations more easily," he said.

Minister for Intellectual Property, Lord Younger said the measures are more evolution than revolution. "Cutting red tape for SMEs, making laws easier to understand, and helping to speed up the granting of patents internationally will all help business in the UK," he says. "Our smallest businesses in particular, will benefit to protect their creative ideas and to further encourage them to grow."

One of the keys initiatives outlined in the Bill is the introduction of criminal sanctions for deliberate copying of registered designs. It is hoped this will be a deterrent to those who deliberately copy UK registered designs and provide greater protection for the design sector.

Other measures include:
- Allowing the sharing of information, between international patent offices, on unpublished patent applications to help clear existing backlogs and speed up clearance times. As a result, UK businesses who also apply for European, US and Japanese patents, in addition to a UK patents, could increase the value of their patents by £4.2million per annum.

- Allowing the UK to join the Hague system. This is an international designs registration system which allows applicants to designate the countries in which they wish their design to be registered. Currently, registration for six countries, taking account of the cost of translation, notary and other fees could add up to £7,500. Through the Hague system this would cost £500 for a business.

- Patent owners will have the option of marking their patented products with a web address which links to the details of the relevant patent number rather than having to put the patent numbers directly on the product in order to get maximum protection. This change will reduce the burdens on businesses and individuals who own patents, whilst also making it easier for the public to access up-to-date patent information in relation to a particular product.

- The introduction of a new exemption in the Freedom of Information Act for continuing programmes of research intended for future publication. This will provide researchers with clarity and certainty and the opportunity to validate and analyse their results before putting them into the public domain or before any related patents have been granted.

The Bill can be found here.

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