Sunday, 1 January 2012

Patent Office v Patents County Court: a forthcoming discussion

I recently received the following missive from John Mitchell, the ever-combative Chairman of the SME Innovation Alliance and champion of small businesses against the worst excesses of intellectual property law:
"I thought your readers might appreciate knowing about a most interesting discussion that the SME Innovation Alliance will be holding on Friday 10 February 2012. It effectively features a debate about the role of the UKIPO against that of the Patents County Court. While many of your professional readers will probably not even raise an eyebrow that these two institutions will be side by side, SME members are far more likely to view the role of patent examination and grant as contradictory to that of subsequent invalidity proceedings that the separate Patents County Court then can then hold. Questions such as "Why bother to have patent examiners rather than a much simplified registration system?" and "Why do we have a Court that has the power to overrule qualified patent examiners?" will no doubt be asked. No doubt your readers can construe many possible claims ;-). Indeed, what questions would they want to put? (They can of course attend for a fee unless a member of SMEIA). The full agenda for February's meeting is here"
I'm always willing to publicise events of this nature, even though my personal view is that this discussion may be based on false premises. One reason why patents get revoked is that fresh evidence of the prior art emerges after the examiner has done his job. This often comes to light when the owner of the patent sues someone for infringement and the person being sued says, hang on there -- this can't be right; what you claim in your patent isn't new. Bear in mind also the fact that the vast majority of patents are never challenged at all and the examiner's handiwork remains unscathed. Still, there's no harm in debating the issues -- and there's even less harm in reminding ourselves of the precarious foothold which many SMEs have on the patent system and of the problems they face in litigating their patents.

No comments: