It is fantastic news for both practitioners and applicants alike that the backlog in examination at the UK Intellectual Property Office (UKIPO) has been brought to zero. Yes, zero. There is no longer a backlog in any of the patent, trade mark or design divisions.

Like many of my colleagues, I was often asked by frustrated clients why examination of patent applications (for I am a patent attorney) at the UKIPO took such a long time. That is a question that ought not to be relevant from now on; examination of patent, trade mark and design applications should be conducted within the UKIPO's defined service standards, which can be found here. Notably the following should now be met:

  • Patents “Preliminary” ExaminationAssessment of procedural and non-technical aspects of a patent application - within 4 weeks (20 working days) of the application’s filing date.
  • Patent SearchIssuance of search reports - within 6 months of the request.
  • Patent ExaminationFull substantive examination of legal and technical aspects of a patent application - within 3.5 years (42 months) of the priority date.
  • Patent AccelerationAll requests for accelerated processing dealt with - within 2 months of receipt.
  • Trade Mark and Designs ExaminationIssuance of first report on trade mark and designs domestic and international cases - within 2 weeks (10 working days) from the date it is ready to be examined*

*an application is ready to be examined once it has been filed at the UKIPO and a filing receipt has been issued.

It is realistic to believe that these standards will be met as the UKIPO takes steps to implement its 'One IPO Transformation Programme', to be launched in around two years' time.

We look forward to many more timely interactions with the UKIPO on behalf of our clients as we all look to benefit from a more effective, as well as more efficient, service.

The patent examination backlog has been steadily growing over the previous two decades. Patent backlogs are those that have not been examined more than 42 months after the initial application.

In the last three years the number of late patent examinations reduced from 13,000 to zero. The scale of the work is unprecedented for IPO. Last April the patent backlog stood at 6,007 cases, consisting of 12,000,000 pages.