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New bill proposes reformed intellectual property laws

UK businesses keen to protect their products and technologies through patents and design rights may benefit from changes proposed by a new Intellectual Property Bill, says the Intellectual Property Office.

The bill, published this week by Intellectual Property (IP) Minister Lord Younger, recommends a series of measures that should help businesses to gain an improved understanding of what’s protected under the law. It may also help to reduce the need for costly litigation, and provide greater certainty for investors in new designs and technologies.

In particular, the bill proposes new powers to enable the UK to implement the Unitary Patent Court Agreement. The Court plays a central role in introducing a single patent across almost all EU countries. It is estimated that this could benefit businesses by up to £40 million annually.

Meanwhile, the proposals also recommend creating a ‘designs opinion service’ and an expanded patents opinions service. This would allow people to ask the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) to provide an expert opinion on whether a UK design or patent was valid or being infringed. The move is intended to help businesses assess the strength of their case before paying for lengthy legal proceedings, and may avoid litigation altogether.

Criminal penalties will be introduced for copying UK-registered designs and strengthening design protection. This is already the case for copyright and trademark disputes.

Commenting on the new bill, Business Secretary, Vince Cable said: “UK business invests nearly £16 billion in design each year, which represents 1.1% of GDP. The changes in this bill are intended to help SMEs and innovative businesses get on and grow. By reforming and simplifying IP rules and making them easier to understand, we aim to help businesses protect their innovations more easily.”

A full copy of the bill can be found here.

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