The IPO recently issued a report entitled 'UK Patent System: Building the evidence base'. After detailed stakeholder interview and analysis, to which Kilburn & Strode was proud to contribute, the report provides a detailed analysis both of the current patent system in the UK, and the views of many stakeholders with a particular eye to the impact on innovation. Taking in a wide range of academic, user and advisor input, and based on strong statistical analysis, the paper reaches important and convincing, if not entirely surprising conclusions.

A summary

In brief review, there are some clear positives. The UK continues to be a major player in the global patent system both in terms of performance and influence on international development, provides a well regarded granting system and an even better regarded enforcement system.

There are some neutral conclusions: the IPO questions how closely innovation and patenting are linked but does recognise the connection generally between a strong economy and a high use of the patenting system.

There are some negative conclusions as well, and one particularly stark statistic jumps out. The speed of the patent granting system is challenged and the IPO would be the first to admit that the backlog is too large; the cost of advisers is also questioned although this is discussed in the context of 'social versus economic' decision making. The gravest concern must be the percentage of UK patents held by UK companies which, at just 7%, is approximately a fifth of the German figure held. The paper goes on to review some of the reasons this may be the case.

Usefully, the report also looks at the work that now needs to be done. Clearly awareness and engagement of the UK domestic market in creating its own IP is essential; there may be room for further research but we rather hope that action will come first! One aspect that Kilburn & Strode explicitly raised and are delighted to see make its way through to the final report is the necessity of having some measure of control by users of the speed of the patent granting process. For commercial reasons parties may wish patents to be granted quickly or slowly; as long as third party interests are adequately protected, improved control in this area would be a huge boon for users and would put the UK Intellectual Property Office at the forefront of patent granting authorities around the world.

Areas of interest

This is a brief summary – the report carries useful conclusions in a number of areas including:

  • The role of patents in stimulating innovation
  • Low UK activity and indeed the low use of the UK IPO for direct patent granting as opposed to the EPO
  • The need for speedier patenting and controlling it
  • A general statistical review which reveals fascinating insights
  • The importance of renewal fee management
  • The impact and usage of the Patent Box, by different size entities
  • The role of GB as a policy influencer
  • The quality of our litigation system

We will be following up with further brief reviews of each of these topics stimulated by the IPO’s excellent report, and we look forward to seeing the IPO continue its role as driver of innovation, not just granter of patents.