by Malcolm Harbour
New legislation will help businesses cut costs and protect intellectual property across 25 European Union member states, says British MEP
A new bill aimed at helping British businesses protect their products and technologies through patents and design rights will be soon going through the United Kingdom parliament. This will build on the work carried out in the European Parliament.
The Intellectual Property Bill has been tabled by the relevant UK minister Lord Younger. A central part of the legislation is the introduction of the new European Patent. It will offer a one-stop-shop for companies that want to protect their new business ideas across 25 European Union member states. This will put an end to businesses having to file patents in each country and having to meet varying demands in each.
As well as helping British businesses to protect their products and technologies through patents and design rights, the bill will help businesses to better understand what is protected under the law – thereby reducing the need for costly litigation. At the same time, this will provide greater certainty for investors in new designs and technologies.
Key elements of the proposed law include powers to enable the UK to implement the European Unitary Patent Court Agreement. The court is a central part in introducing a single patent across almost all EU countries. It is estimated that this would lead to direct benefits to business of up to PS40m per year.
A new London court will be set up, which is expected to be fully operational as from 2015. This court will be responsible for the adjudication on pharmaceutical and life sciences patent disputes. This will benefit businesses as well as boosting the UK’s legal services industry, which is estimated to benefit the economy by PS200m per annum.
It is highly appropriate that the London court will have the responsibility for pharmaceutical and life science patents as the UK leads the way in these industries. This new court will mean that British pharmaceutical and life sciences companies looking to defend or enforce their patents across the continent will only need to go to one court once, instead of fighting their case in each European country.
The bill will also see the introduction of criminal penalties for copying UK registered designs and strengthen design protection. This is already the case for copyright and trademark disputes and brings parity to this area of intellectual property law.
In addition, proposals for a designs opinion service and an expanded patents opinions service are included in the plan. This would allow design or patent rights holders or anyone else to ask the Intellectual Property Office to provide an expert opinion on whether a British design or patent is valid or being infringed. This will help businesses assess the strength of their case before embarking on more formal and costly legal proceedings and may help avoid litigation altogether.
Businesses also have access to the services offered by the Office of Harmonisation in the Internal Market. These include registration of trademarks and designs for protection across the EU, in one application and for one payment. Checks for existing trademarks and designs can now be carried out for free online.
This bill should be welcomed as it aims to help businesses develop new and innovative products and at the same time provide product protection. The estimated benefits to the UK economy are hugely important and must also be welcomed.
Malcolm Harbour is a Conservative Party MEP for the West Midlands, in the United Kingdom
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