The UK Intellectual Property Office (UKIPO) has launched two new patent databases. The databases can be accessed on the UKIPO website and are updated weekly and free to use. One of the databases contains patents in force in the UK which are endorsed as "Licence of Right" and are therefore open to licensing. The other database contains patents which are no longer in force and therefore no longer afford protection to the inventions to which they relate.

This UKIPO initiative follows on from the recommendations made by Andrew Gowers who was appointed in 2005 by the government to lead a review of the UK intellectual property regime. The report of Gowers' review was published in December 2006 and made specific references to the UKIPO publishing and maintaining open standards web databases, one containing all UK patents issued under licence of right and the other containing all expired patents in the UK.

The design of the new databases is based on the successful Patents Journal on the UKIPO website, which will be replaced by the new databases. The information contained in the databases includes details of applications filed, published, granted and expired. Such information could previously be found in the Patents Journal, but a user would normally have to know the date of publication in order to search through the correct issue of the Journal. The databases will now provide users with the ability to access patent information easily and quickly, and also allow them to search and download patent information in a number of formats.

According to the UKIPO's press release, it is hoped that the databases will prove to be useful commercial tools for businesses and assist them in identifying opportunities they may not have otherwise discovered. Additionally, it is noted that applications which are filed but have yet to be published can now be viewed by users at a much earlier stage, allowing those with commercial interests to keep an eye on what their competitors are up to only a few weeks after an application has been lodged.