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UK Intellectual Property Policy Reform: Newsbites from the Westminster Legal Policy Forum

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westminster 2

IPCopy welcomes K2 IP Attorney Adam Brocklehurst for his inaugural blog post, which we hope will be the first of many! Adam was our reporter-on-the-ground at the Westminster Legal Policy Forum on 30 April 2013, and you can enjoy his whistle-stop-tour of the event here.

The Westminster Legal Policy Forum gathered in Whitehall this week for a wide-ranging discussion of hot IP policy and political topics.  IP Copy was there to pick up any interesting tidbits. Headliners were HHJ Birss, Baroness Wilcox, Sean Dennehey, representatives from the European Commision, and various speakers from practice and industry.

HHJ Birss spoke on the past and future of the Patents County Court, its immediate future being of course without him.  Such is the recent success that there are plans to appoint more deputy judges to cope with demand.  He noted that the Unified Patent Court’s  hybrid between common law and continental approaches rather chimed with PCC cases being similar to EPO hearings, but retaining UK law features such as cross-examination and (limited) disclosure.

He also argued that the PCC’s recent work shows that a common law approach to litigation does not have to be expensive.  This provoked some heated debate over whether SMEs do in practice have real access to litigation, one attendee arguing that SMEs don’t see the point of the PCC as they can’t bring high value cases there, and would rather sue in the US.  It was pointed out that the damages limit of £0.5m for the PCC was not a limit on the size of the business or the value of the claim, and that in any case most suits were rather aimed at obtaining an injunction.

A panel of industry heavyweights then discussed policy following the Hargreaves Review.  Recent complaints that the patent box is merely more corporate tax avoidance, were raised but seemed to find little sympathy in the room, as did the alleged view of “most SMEs” that patent infringement should be criminalised!  Your correspondent enquired of Georg von Graevenitz whether his paper on patent thickets had yet prompted any views on policy, especially in light of the EPO’s apparent view that thickets are not a problem in themselves – he seemed to agree with the EPO that patent quality may be the real issue.

In her inimitable style, Baroness Wilcox chaired discussions on the Unitary Patent and Unified Patent Court.  Andrea Liesenfeld from DG Markt gave a valiant and positive review of the proposals, only for various attendees to air the usual concerns raised by the pesky/tenacious UK legal community.  The Commission don’t appear to have heard anything from Italy following rumours of their deciding to join the enhanced co-operation effort.  Word is also that, following hand-wringing over bifurcation, a “high likelihood” of invalidity of a patent (to force a stay of infringement under the Rules of Procedure) is as far as German representatives are prepared to go, rather than “reasonable likelihood” which UK lobbyists would prefer.  We also hear that in spite of the upcoming “consultation” on the Rules, there is actually little appetite for any further changes.

Finally, Sean Dennehey (Deputy CEO of the IPO) gave news on an international harmonization working group comprising the US, French, German, Danish and EP Offices, assured us that quality of patents granted would not be affected by speed of grant, whether 90 days or 90 minutes, and appeared to say that the IPO are planning an economic impact assessment for the UP/UPC, which should please those in the industry (e.g. CIPA, IP Federation) who called for it.

Adam Brocklehurst, 2 May 2013

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