Plans drawn up to expand patent opinions service
The Intellectual Property Office (IPO) has set out proposals to expand its patent opinions service and is seeking views on improving its mediation service to help cut the costs of resolving patent disputes.
The patent opinion service allows individuals or companies to get an opinion on the validity or infringement of a patent for a flat fee of £200. The IPO is consulting on expanding the range of questions that can be handled and on a proposed new power to consider revoking a patent if it issues an opinion concluding it is invalid. The IPO is also seeking views on why the take-up of its mediation service is low.
The moves follow the Hargreaves Review into intellectual property, which found that the costs of protecting and enforcing intellectual property rights prevent small and medium-sized businesses from making the most of their IP. The consultation on the opinion service runs until 4 September and the call for evidence on the mediation service finishes on 24 July.
Gordon Harris, head of IP at international firm Wragge & Co, said that the opinion service is well used, but ‘toothless’. He said some of the proposals would ‘give it a few more teeth’, especially broadening the scope of the questions that can be asked. But he said this would not help the majority of micro-businesses in England and Wales.
Harris said that mediation would be a more tangible help to small businesses seeking to protect their rights, but that parties are often unaware of the current service.
‘If they are going to improve it, they need to give it proper structure and rules, and publicity. Courts should also be obliged to suggest mediation to parties,’ he said.