New Patents Bill to by-pass courts

Measures to help small businesses protect their intellectual property rights were revealed last week, when the government published plans for the biggest reform of the patent laws for more than quarter of a century. The patents bill includes measures aimed at making it easier for businesses to resolve disputes without resorting to the courts.

Speaking on the publication of the Patents Bill last week, Lord Sainsbury, Minister for Science & Innovation said: “The Government is committed to improving the environment necessary to support and encourage innovation. Effective, flexible and up-to-date patent law is essential to help businesses turn bright ideas into successful products and processes.” The legislation aims to provide “a more supportive framework, particularly for small businesses” to enforce patent rights and ensure that UK patent law continues to “underpin and promote innovation”.

Proposals include enabling the Patent Office to provide “an independent non-binding opinion on patent validity or infringement” to settle disputes over patent rights without parties having to resort to “expensive litigation”; bringing UK law into line with the revised European Patent Convention; and modifying existing protection for alleged infringers to encourage out-of-court settlement.

Last month the Department for Trade and Industry published its Innovation Report (“Competing in the Global Economy: the Innovation Challenge”). The government targeted the patent regime as a reason for the UK’s “innovation performance” as being “at best, average”. In particular, UK firms patenting activity fell way behind firms in Japan, Germany and the US. It was also “just below” the European average.