The United Kingdom has amended its existing patent law in an effort to deter “unreasonable” infringement suits and encourage out-of-court settlements. The new Patents Act, which amends the Patents Act of 1977, was passed by the House of Lords on Thursday. The bill was previously introduced to and passed by the House of Commons. While the law does not change the standard of patentability, it modifies existing protection for alleged infringers to encourage out-of-court settlement of disputes while still deterring patent owners from making unreasonable allegations of infringement. The amended provisions enable the Patent Office to provide an independent non-binding opinion on patent validity or infringement to settle disputes over patent rights without parties having to resort to expensive litigation. Moreover, the law aims to bring U.K. patent law into line with the revised European Patent Convention to reduce bureaucracy and make it simpler for U.K. businesses to operate across Europe, according to the U.K. Patent Office. The European Patent Convention (EPC), which establishes the European patents system, was revised in 2000 and the bill will bring about changes to UK patents law that are necessary if the UK is to remain a member of the Convention, the Patent Office said. Current UK patent law is provided by the Patents Act 1977, one of the main purposes of which was to reform the law of patents in the U.K. to bring it into line with the EPC which was agreed in 1973. The Department for Trade and Industry and the Patent Office, an executive agency of the DTI, consulted widely on the changes during 2003.
As soon as he read this, the IPKat zoomed across to the UK Patent Office's website -- while was sadly silent on this topic. The Office's special web section on the Bill was last updated on 20 April 2004.