LONDON The Patent Office has launched an opinions service which allows anyone to ask the Patent Office for an expert opinion on an issue of patent infringement or validity.
The service is designed to help businesses or individuals who are (or may become) involved in a dispute over patents – giving them a basis for negotiation.
The service will help parties test the strength of their arguments at the Patent Office before (or instead of) resorting to expensive litigation. It is designed so that both sides of a dispute can have their say before the opinion is issued. During the spring the Patent Office consulted with a range of users of the patents system on the detailed procedures of the new service.
The opinions service is a key feature of the Patents Act 2004, which modernises and improves patent law. The Act makes changes needed to bring our patents legislation into line with the revised European Patent Convention (EPC 2000), as well as introducing a variety of changes intended to help patentees enforce their rights and to modernise the patent system.
Anyone may request an opinion on any UK patent, or European patent which designates the UK. The fee is £200 and after the request is filed, there is a short period for anyone to make observations on the request, and for the requester and patentee to make observations in reply.
The opinion will be written and issued by a senior patent examiner, who will consider the arguments set out in the request, as well as any observations filed. Patent examiners are graduate scientists and engineers who are responsible for the technical and legal scrutiny of patent applications in a particular field of technology.
The provisions of the 2004 Act commenced on 1 October are those which have needed significant changes to the Patents Rules before taking effect. These provisions include renewal fee payment periods, co-ownership and revocation, Patent Office opinions security for costs and inventor confidentiality (paragraphs 6, 9 and 26(2) of Schedule 2)
Many of the key provisions of the Patents Act 2004 were brought into force on 1 January 2005. The only provisions of the 2004 Act now not in force are those which implement EPC 2000. They will come into force when EPC 2000 does – probably in late 2007.