Guidance for inventors, innovation businesses and patent owners
What's it all about?
The Intellectual Property Act 2014 (the act) received royal assent on 14 May 2014. The act will come into force between October 2014 and the end of 2015.
Stemming from the Hargreaves Review on intellectual property reform, the act seeks to modernise certain aspects of intellectual property law. The main intellectual property rights affected by the act are design rights and patents. This note focuses on the changes made to patent law.
Remind me, what do patent's protect?
Patents protect inventions - broadly, novel products or processes. Once you have a registered patent it gives you the exclusive right to exploit that patent for a period of 20 years provided that renewal fees are paid to the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) every five years.
Consequently, if your business develops patentable technologies or engages third parties to do so then you will need to be aware of these changes.
What are the purposes of the changes made to patent rights?
The changes have been made broadly to:
- make it easier for patent owners to provide public notice of their rights
- provide for the agreement establishing a Unified Patent Court to be brought into effect in the UK
- allow the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) to share information on unpublished patent applications with international partners to speed up patent processing and
- expand the circumstances in which the IPO may issue an opinion in respect of patents
What are the main changes to patents?
- Easier notification: Instead of including a patent number on a product, a patent owner can now put others on notice of his rights by including a link to a website which provides details of the patent
- Increased powers of IPO: as broader power to give opinions and the Comptroller General of Patents, Designs and Trademarks has greater power to revoke a patent on his own initiative
- Single European patent: The act enables the inter-governmental agreement to provide for a Unified Patent Court within participating European countries, to be brought into effect in the UK. This will mean that it will be possible to apply to the European Patent Office for a single patent which has effect across all participating countries and for some issues to be litigated in a new Unified Patent Court. This could save businesses a considerable amount of money
- Permits information sharing: The act allows the IPO to share information on unpublished patent applications with international partners, in certain circumstances, to speed up patent processing
- Minor amendments: There are a number of other minor amendments made to the Patents Act 1977 including extending the period during which a third party can challenge ownership of a granted patent
What are the other changes?
In addition to the changes to the Design Right and unregistered design regimes which are the subject of our previous guidance note the other main changes are:
- New FOI exemption: The act has added a new exemption to the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOI) for information obtained in the course of or derived from a continuing programme of research, a report of which is intended for future publication, where disclosure would prejudice the report
- New reporting procedure: Following a recommendation in the Hargreaves Report, there is an obligation on the Secretary of State to report on the IPO's activities each year to show how innovation and growth have been supported in the UK
- Recognition of foreign works: The act provides for automatic extension of certain copyright provisions of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to nationals of, and works first published in other countries i.e. it recognises certain foreign works
How will these changes affect me?
It is hoped that the act will benefit many UK businesses and make obtaining international patent registrations and/or bringing patent infringement claims easier.
If you would like to find out more about the changes, please do get in touch.