Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Cable slips his tag again?*

Cable announces step change to turn ideas into growth, says a Patent Office press release of a speech by the Business Secretary on 17 December. It says that he "launched a range of measures that will improve services to business, strengthen enforcement, and help consumers get the most out of creative products and services". At least the writer of the release can execute a parallel construction.
It goes on to say that "[t]he plans, which will involve a step change in the way the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) delivers services, include:
  • launching a superfast patent processing service to deliver patents in just 90 days and a faster trade marks examination service which will deliver a full examination report in five days, instead of 10;
  • a campaign to educate smaller businesses about getting the best value from their creativity and innovation;
  • action to help consumers and young people understand the importance of respect for IP and the harm counterfeiting or illegal downloading can do; and
  • working with key partners, such as the City of London Police, to tackle IP crime such as counterfeiting and online piracy."
Oh, please. What on earth is a "step change"? Is it what a body of marching troops do when they switch feet? Is there a risk that the UK will end up out-of-step with everyone else if we do that? And why are we concerned about the Intellectual Property Office (the Patent Office's "trendy but pointless 'operating name'" per Jacob LJ in EI du Pont de Nemours & Co v United Kingdom Intellectual Property Office [2009] EWCA Civ 966) delivering services? I still feel uncomfortable with it doing more than handling grants of patents and registering designs and trade marks and the associated activities like oppositions. Policy work should surely be for the department itself, and promotion and advice is rightly the province of the legal profession (in the widest sense, including patent and trade mark agents). But it will:
... also expand the way it operates, moving beyond just granting rights and do more to support businesses in understanding the opportunities available to them at home and abroad. This will include piloting an IP advisory service for small and medium businesses with high-growth potential. The IPO will work more closely with organisations where businesses already go for advice such as trade associations, UKTI, chambers of commerce, banks and accountants.
The proposal that has attracted most attention is the one to allow super-fast patents (and, to a lesser extent, trade marks), at a price. The IPO apparently argues that patent applicants often need to secure their rights more quickly than the present system permits, and are willing and (in some cases, but probably not SMEs) able to pay for the privilege. Funny - I thought that rights were secured from the filing date ... And is it really right that we should be introducing a premium patent service when the problem of the cost of litigation is so great, and exacerbated by the unitary court proposals?
Moreover (I have started too many sentences with "and"), what is the point of making a UK national patent quick to get when so many patentees want Europeans? Not a rhetorical question - if anyone has an answer please post a comment.
* If you missed the reference, it's explained here. Nice one, Minister.

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