Superfast Patents in the UK?

April 26, 2013

The UK Patent Office have made a proposal for a superfast process for granting UK patents, possibly in as little as 90 days. This may be attractive to clients in some commercial situations, but it potentially carries problems with it.

The UK Patent Office has opened a consultation about a proposal for a superfast process for granting UK patents, possibly in as little as 90 days from filing the application. In the UK and many other countries around the World, the conventional patent application process takes a number of years to complete. The Patent Office acknowledges that this is appropriate for some applicants. The patent application process can be influenced by commercial developments with the invention, which may result in a patent which is of more commercial benefit. The process normally includes publication of the patent application 18 months after filing, so there is some delay before competitors can obtain full details. For the proposed superfast process, the Patent Office intend to commit themselves to completing each stage of their process within a matter of days, so that if the applicant also acts swiftly, the application can go to grant within 90 days if it is based on an earlier application filed abroad and 120 days if it was first filed in the UK. There will be a premium paid for this service, possibly as high as £4,000. The Patent Office acknowledges that the high speed of processing will raise some complications which need to be addressed. One concern is their search for earlier publications. These take some time to reach the databases used by Examiners, so they need to wait until they are sure that the databases are up to date before granting a patent. However, a very similar application filed the day before might remain unpublished for 18 months and then prove to be relevant to the validity of the granted superfast patent. The superfast process will include publication of the application (and patent) very early, and may also allow public access to the online file even before formal publication. Thus, competitors will have details at a much earlier stage of the process. The Patent Office envisages that once the superfast process has begun, early publication cannot be stopped. The Patent Office believes that a superfast process can be helpful for some applicants in some commercial situations. Applicants working in industries which have very short product cycles might consider this process worthwhile, for instance. However, there will also be some potential drawbacks. Early publication of the application may limit your options for protecting future developments of the basic idea. Your granted superfast patent might be damaged by other patent applications published through the normal process well over a year after your patent is granted. This raises the possibility of litigation taking place immediately after the superfast patent is granted but in relation to a patent which subsequently proves to be unenforceable. Of course, this tactic will also be available to your competitors! The UK Patent Office is now seeking views about the new process. They want to know what demand there is likely to be and what response there is to the possible risks or concerns. The consultation is open until 12th June 2013. If you would like further information, please contact your usual attorney at Swindell & Pearson or Michael Skinner [email protected].

Swindell & Pearson has been helping businesses and individuals protect and defend their ideas, innovations and brands for over 130 years. With its head office in Derby, the firm also has offices in Stoke, Wolverhampton, Stafford, Sheffield and Burton. To find out how Swindell & Pearson can help you with any intellectual property requirements please get in touch via [email protected] or by telephone on 01332 367 051.