Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Patents: Deciding Disputes

If you feel that the existing material on patent dispute resolution is too difficult for you, check out this month's revised version of the UK Intellectual Property Office's booklet Patents: Deciding Disputes. It won't take you long to read. Only 23 pages from start to finish (of which 11 provide guidance on patent disputes), the work commences with a disclaimer that reassures patent litigators that their services are still necessary:

"It is not an in-depth guide and does not include many details which may be relevant in particular circumstances. You should get independent professional advice about any matters covered by the booklet and should not try to rely on this booklet alone".
The booklet is written in crystal-clear terms, which makes it pretty handy to give not only to the small inventor or SME officer unversed in the arcane terminology of IP dispute resolution but also to anyone else who may be involved, such as witnesses. It should prove particularly helpful as preparatory reading material for the prospective litigant before he meets his professional adviser for the first time -- especially if the reader has a tendency to glaze over whenever legal terms confront him.

Sample statements of grounds, counter-statements, witness statements and exhibits are provided by way of illustration, plus contact details for the Law Society, CIPA and the IPO itself. The booklet also draws the attention of the reader to two of the IPO's services that are arguably underused: its own mediation service and the facility of seeking an opinion on infringement or validity.

Above: the picture of good-humoured tranquillity at the IPO when a litigant in person calls

Patents being one of the most fertile breeding-grounds of pedantry, it would be almost churlish to allow the following statement to pass without comment: "In appeals to the Court of Appeal and the House of Lords, it is usual for both sides to be represented by a barrister". Fortunately for those who strive to make a living at the bar, it is even more usual for each side to be represented by its own barrister.

The booklet concludes with a green plea: "When you no longer need this booklet, please recycle it". PatLit feels that the office's environmental credentials will be enhanced when booklets like this, or at least the 'print' option, give readers the option of printing a text-only version without the design-friendly acres of empty white space and the aesthetically appealing but superfluous photos that consume the colour cartridges of the unwary.

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