On 8 May 2013, the Queen gave her annual speech marking the opening of a new UK Parliamentary session. One of the 20 bills proposed was a bill to designed to protect the intellectual property rights of businesses. The Queen’s words were as follows:
“A bill will be introduced to reduce the burden of excessive regulation on businesses.
A further bill will make it easier for businesses to protect their intellectual property”.
The Intellectual Property Bill 2013-2014 (the “Bill”) addresses the protection of design rights and patents, both of which should be simplified and made more accessible by the proposed legislation.
Both registered design rights (“RDR”) and unregistered design rights (“UDR”) are intended to be better protected under the proposals in the Bill. UDR will be redefined to prevent spurious claims based on small parts. Criminal sanctions will be introduced for the infringement of RDR, and the default owner of a design will no longer be its commissioner, but rather the designer responsible.
The Bill will also allow the UK to join the Hague System. This allows a design registration to be designated to, and registered in, other contracting countries at a fraction of the cost of pursuing additional separate registrations.
Unified Patent Court
The Bill will implement the European Union’s unitary patent and the Unified Patent Court (“UPC”). The unitary patent system is due to become effective on 1 January 2014, and will allow patent holders to enforce their rights through a single action in a contracting Member State, instead of having to enforce rights on a country-by-country basis.
The UPC itself will be split across three jurisdictions: Paris will host the central division; Munich will deal with mechanical applications; and London will address pharmaceutical and chemical patents. The IPO estimates that the UPC will directly benefit UK business by approximately £40m per year.
In addition to the implementation of the UPC, the Bill would permit the IPO to share information on unpublished patent applications with international patent offices. This would speed up clearance times, help eliminate backlogs, and increase the value of patents.
The Bill also proposes establishing an opinion service for designs and expanding the patents opinion service. These services will allow individuals and companies to approach the IPO for expert advice on issues such as validity and infringement. It is hoped this will assist in resolving issues without having to resort to litigation.
The Bill has received its first reading in the House of Lords, and is due for a second reading on 22 May 2013. However, before entering into law it will have proceed through both Chambers in Parliament, and there is a strong likelihood that further amendments will be made during this time.