Gowers Review of Intellectual Property

At the Enterprise Conference on 2 December 2005, the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced that, as part of the Pre-Budget Report 2005 package, he was asking Andrew Gowers to lead an Independent Review to examine the UK's intellectual property framework.

The Open Rights Group has been formally invited to participate. We are currently drafting our submission and wish to include your thoughts and opinions. We have reproduced the Call for Evidence below and invite you to contribute - just hit 'respond' next to the paragraph you wish to comment on.

Many of the questions asked by Andrew Gowers in this review are very focused, but you should feel free to comment on the issues and the wider implications rather than feel obliged to provide specific answers. If you want to talk about issues not raised by this call for evidence, please do - just leave your comments on the Introduction.

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General Questions

  1. How IP is awarded

    (a) Are there barriers to obtaining IP rights due to system complexity? What could be done to improve this situation?
    (b) How easy is it to find out about obtaining IP rights? What could be done to improve awareness for businesses and innovators? Is there sufficient awareness of the need to protect IP internationally?
    (c) Are there barriers to obtaining UK IP rights on grounds of cost? What drives these costs?
    (d) How do these costs compare internationally in your organisation’s experience?
    (e) Do you have any comments on the UK Patent Office fees structure for obtaining and renewing IP protection?
    (f) Is lack of trust in the system a barrier? To what extent do you rely on other tools to bring innovation to the marketplace, such as being first to market, maintaining trade secrets, or using an open innovation model to generate value through reputation or network effects?
    (g) Are there specific barriers to obtaining IP rights in your sector?
    (h) Are there specific barriers to obtaining IP rights for small businesses or individuals?
    (i) How well does the national system for awarding IP, administered by the Patent Office perform? How well do the international and European systems work?

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3 responses

  1. David Mytton Says:

    a) Apart from cost (although this is included in cost), the complexity and precise requirements mean that our view is that we need a specialist legal advisor to compile the patent application to ensure it covers every aspect of an invention. This is expensive.

    b) The Patent Office website contains the information but it could do with a very simple, basic overview of the process required for securing copyright (even though registration isn’t required), trademark and patent protection, along with examples and details about the process after application and approval.

    g) We are a software company and are against software patents. We feel that the protection provided by copyright law is sufficient and that software patents would cause major problems, as highlighted by the No Software Patents campaign.

    h) I don’t think individuals would consider trademark or patent protection open to them on their own. It is often considered that these are very expensive and difficult to obtain, which may be the case.

  2. Chris Foster Says:

    (a) I agree with the above comment. I hold a patent from one of my former jobs, and it would be extremely difficult, if not impossible to file a watertight patent without a patent lawyer.

    A good patent is one that is often described in very obtuse language and this is done for a reason. If they are contested then the description of the invention has to be completely unambiguous. A good patent also covers as many bases and extensions to the original idea, so that in the future a patent cannot be circumvented by simply changing a small detail of the invention.

    To write an application in an appropriate way would be very difficult for someone without technical AND legal skills and experience

    (i) I have suspicion of the period between the filing and granting of a patent. I wonder how much scrutiny a patent gets from the public during this period. Bearing in mind the volume of filings, I suspect that some (possibly the majority of) filings do not receive adequate analysis of their originality during this period from the public (Although I have no more than anecdotal evidence for this).

    Beyond this there is a search done by the patent office, I have seen several patent applications receive search results that are completely irrelevant to the original filing. This is not surprising considering that the patent office staff are not technical experts in every area that a patent is filed.

    In summary, I think that there is certainly room for improvement in the ways that patent are given scrutiny to ensure their originality. More active peer review systems for instance, could be a way to weeding out more unoriginal inventions

  3. Gordon Says:

    I agree with previous comments.
    At a business meeting talking to a Patent Lawer about taking out a patent he just held his hand out and”How much money have you got”, the cost of researching and getting a patent is expensive but protecting that patent is even higher !.
    Then you have the disadvantage of telling the world all about your new idea !.
    Look what happening with the USPO having some 16000 hits on their site from China and Taiwan.
    Tighter controls must be placed on PO’s on how patents are policed and given, a proper audit trail would be a start, especially looking at prior art !.