A new UK/China patent cooperation has just been launched, while the UK government seeks views on proposed changes to implement Europe's unitary patent.
The government has announced the launch of a Patent Prosecution Highway programme between the UK Intellectual Property Office, the UK IPO, and the State Intellectual Property Office China, SIPO. This will enable applicants who have obtained a patent at one office to ask for accelerated processing of a corresponding application at the other. The second office can then make use of the work undertaken by the first office to process the application faster and more efficiently.
The Department for Business Innovation and Skills press release on the PPH reports Minister for Intellectual Property Lord Younger’s comment in support of the initiative that 'UK exports to China are growing faster than our French and German competitors with exports almost doubling since 2009 - reaching more than £1 billion per month’.
The PPH will run until June 2016 initially, although if it works well we would expect to see it extended. A similar PPH programme between SIPO and the United States PTO that began in 2011 was extended from 2012 to 2013 and then re-extended indefinitely.
Meanwhile, the UK IPO has called for users’ views on its proposals for implementing Europe’s Unified Patent Court Agreement in the UK.
Changes will be made through amendment of the Patents Act 1977. The areas covered include jurisdiction (the UK courts will not have the power to deal with disputes relating to UPC patents), double patenting (revocation of a GB patent if a unitary patent covers the same invention) and infringement.
An important change adds two new exceptions to patent infringement to the list in s.60 of the Patents Act. These are:
- acts relating to the decompilation and interoperability of software as allowed by Articles 5 and 6 of the Software Directive (2009/24/EC); and
- the use of biological material for the purpose of generating a new plant variety.
The government's impact assessment relating to these infringement changes explains that UK patents should have the same set of exceptions from infringement as under the UPC Agreement.
But as we noted in our blog post Freeing clinical trials from fear of patent infringement - an extended 'Bolar' exemption planned for the UK there is currently a new UK clinical trials exception in the pipeline. This has different wording for clinical trials compared to that in the UPC Agreement, which is more like the existing rule. So the widely welcomed new exception, if passed into law, may itself create an inconsistency between the UK and UPC rules.
The deadline for responses to the consultation is 2 September 2014.