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IPO wants better ways to resolve patent disputes

The Intellectual Property Office has outlined plans to help companies understand their intellectual property rights and improve the process for resolving disputes.

The proposals are part of the agency’s response to last year’s Hargreaves review of intellectual property and economic growth, which highlighted a number of barriers to firms in exploiting their inventions.

These included the cost to companies of managing IP, both in terms of the difficulties in enforcing their IP rights and in defending themselves against claims of copyright infringement by rival companies.

The IPO plans to introduce further improvements in its Patent Options Service. This provides companies with expert opinion on patent validity or infringement issues and has proved popular with business. However, the agency acknowledges that there is a demand for a more broad-ranging service,

Between now and 4 September, the IPO will be seeking views of user organisations on the type of questions to be answered when submitting requests for opinions on the validity of a patent.

It will also consider expanding the service to offer opinions on whether a supplementary protection certificate is valid or has been infringed. An SPC is a special form of intellectual property that extends the protection of a patented active ingredient or combination of active ingredients present in a pharmaceutical or plant protection product after the expiry of the patent.

A further element to the consultation concerns plans to give the IPO powers to consider revoking a patent which it has concluded is invalid.

A parallel consultation will run until 24 July on possible improvements to the IPO’s mediation service. The service was introduced to save the costs of going to court to settle a patent dispute, but take-up by companies has been low. The IPO is looking to understand why and to find better ways of supporting industry in resolving IP issues.

Judith Wilcox, a junior minister in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, said the consultations were part of a process that the government hoped would help create the right environment for innovation.

“As users of the patent opinions or mediation services, this is your chance to let us know how we can better meet your needs. Your input will have a direct effect on how these services are improved to help you resolve intellectual property disputes quickly and in a cost-effective way,” she said.