Thursday, 14 June 2012

Patent Office consults on opinions, mediation

Opinions on patent validity and infringement have been offered for some time by the Patent Office, whose examiners are well-qualified to give them (after all, it's just applying the skills they use in their examining work to a different aspect of the same problem). The service has been well-used. Less well-used - indeed, hardly used at all, it seems - is the Office's mediation service, despite the excellent value for money it offers compared with other mediation options. Now the Government proposes to extend the opinion service and is seeking views on what to do with the mediation service. Here is the press release on the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills website.

The opinion-giving service will be extended to cover more questions about validity and also to include SPCs. The Government also proposes - logically enough - to give the Office powers to revoke a patent if it delivers an opinion saying that the patent is invalid. It's not satisfactory to have a patent remaining in force if the Patent Office thinks it's invalid - that's the worst conceivable type of cluttering.

As for mediation, the purpose of the exercise (which seems to have come from the Office itself) is to find out what people would like it to be doing - how it could be made more popular. Hard to say, in my view: mediation is a great way to resolve many disputes, but the sort of problem that arises in the intellectual property field is often unsuitable. Ownership disputes, yes, but infringements and validity? Not so much - they tend to require an unequivocal answer, reinforced by a power to revoke.

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