UK Patent Office undergoes self-examination

The UK Patent Office is inviting inventors and others to comment on the workings of the current British patent system.

The Patent Office says it is looking to find the ‘Goldilocks’ solution to the ‘inventive step’ – to identify the original idea that will underpin the granting of any new patent. An inventive step should not be too high a hurdle so that truly original inventions are unable to get the protection of a patent. On the other hand the Office wants to avoid making the inventive step too easy so that trivial patents are accepted and given legal protection. The BPO is looking for a solution in the middle which is just right.

Commenting on whether any aspect of the inventive step requirement should be modified Ron Marchant, the Chief Executive of the Patent Office said, ‘An inventive step requirement which is too difficult for applicants to achieve could result in inventions that might deserve a patent not receiving protection, thus hindering the applicant in research and investment. Alternatively, the danger of an inventive step which is too easy to meet is that patents could be obtained for small changes or improvements which hamper the legitimate activities of third parties. It is important that they help us to find the best solution.’

Alongside the quality of the patent, the BPO will also compare its interpretation of the inventive step with those of other countries in order to remain as far as possible consistent with their legislation.

It will also examine the objectives of current legislation, the impact on the role of the patents system in the economy and the effect on third parties

Patents, particularly of ideas rather than inventions, are becoming a hot topic around the world as so-called ‘technology companies’ file dozens of patents in the hope that one of them is adopted and developed by a larger organisation from which royalties can be collected.

As regular readers will be aware, many of the largest IT companies in the world have fallen foul of patent holders who have no intention of exploiting their patent but simply claim royalties for their ‘idea’.

Anyone wishing to comment on the consultation process can add their opinion at the Patent Office web site. Comments should arrive by 31st May 2006.

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