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Investment in shipping and aircraft research and development is under threat as a result of a Court of Appeal decision that greatly restricts enforcement of patents around the world.
In Stena Rederi v Irish Ferries the court found that patents cannot be enforced if the offending ship is only in a UK port temporarily. Lawyers say that following this judgment, UK courts will also deny patent enforcement against aircraft in the UK only to unload, turn about, reload and depart. The ruling implies that applicants seeking to enforce a patent will only be able to do so from the country in which the offending vessel is manufactured or sold. This may limit the willingness of ship and aircraft companies to invest in research knowing that there are limits on the enforceability of its patents. Enforcement is often not possible even when sought in the country of registration due to the lack of necessary legislation in place. It may also encourage dubious ship registration schemes in countries with specious patent protection and little incentive to enforce the rights extended by other countries, said Rajita Sharma, a partner at the London office of Kilpatrick Stockton, which acted for the claimant, Stena Rederi.