Save the IPO!

The IPKat has just read the tragic news on Wales Online that up to 100 jobs are to be axed in the UK's Intellectual Property Office in Newport. Now part of Whitehall Department for Innovation, Universities & Skills, the IPO is at the mercy of the vicissitudes of the global economic downturn.

Right: don't let the IPO go like lambs to the slaughter! Save our IPO!

Noting that there had been a drop in income from patent and trade mark applications, an unnamed spokesman said:
“We had to have a look at how to save money and we will look at ways we can assist people. It is a difficult decision for us to make.”
The IPKat is incensed.  You can't just measure the performance of Patent Office in financial terms. The IPO is a collective repository of a large amount of experience and seasoned judgment; it is tremendously user-friendly and has done far more in its advisory and pastoral role to foster a sympathetic environment for protection and promotion of IP than have the men from the Ministry.   Merpel agrees and says, why not ask the taxpayer if he'd rather subsidise all the scams, jaunts, freebies, porno-videos and third homes enjoyed -- and that's the right word -- by our Parliamentarians, as he is at present, or preserve the national treasure that is our IPO?
Save the IPO! Save the IPO! Reviewed by Jeremy on Tuesday, April 07, 2009 Rating: 5


  1. ...and how much was spent changing their name, logo (several times) and website???

    Surely, they could increase their search and examination fees to something more reasonable, as opposed to something near equivalent of one excess claim fee at the EPO.

  2. The Office essentially answers to its minister, and apparently fee raises - particularly under the current economic conditions - are out of the question.

    Search and examination fees are low, however, even a drastic increase in initial fees would not increase revenue significantly. The important source of revenue is renewal fees. And again, The Office has little power to make decisions on such things, apparently.

  3. One feature of the current mess doesn't seem to be mentioned above. If you look at the Accounts for last year, you will see that we received almost four million pounds in interest. Which was almost a third of our "profit". As interest rates have plummeted, our income is likely to be down over three million from this alone. (Of course, anyone who knows anything about company finance would have said it was an odd arrangement from the start.)

    Other factors, as well as the drop in applications mentioned above, include the fact that we are apparently in a "trade mark trench" (changes in the renewal periods for trade marks mean less are due this year than might normally be the case) and the weakness of the pound (I presume there are more things we pay for that are fixed in other currencies than there are things we get paid for).

    Putting fees up is apparently a non-starter, both politically and for fear of pricing away customers.

  4. The IPO has considerable cash reserves due to its past income from European patents brought into force in the UK. This could easily tide the office over the lull caused by the present recession. A fully functional Intellectual Property Office is essential for future industrial recovery.

  5. Could a community patent could help save jobs?

  6. Re. Previous anonymous, that depends on how the CPC divides the income from renewal fees paid for community patents, since the whole purpose is to make applying for, defending, litigating and in this case in particular maintaining a patent cheaper, I doubt that this would help. What might help would be to increase up front fees with a pay-off later in the way of reduced renewal fees. That way the overall procedure has the same cost or could even be made cheaper overall in order to make it more attractive, but the IPO gets additional cash now when it needs it most and can afford the lower renewal fees later on, if, and this is a big if, the crisis has eased by the time these are due and filing starts to increase again and can offset the lower renewal fee by way of up-front fees. This also depends on applicants viewing the longer term when considering that the overall costs would be the same or lower (no guarantee of this of course, since considerable costs are incurred before filing, by paying an attorney).

    Let's hope that the IPO re-considers, my heart goes out to those affected, maybe they can achieve the reductions without compulsory redundancies (such a dreadful word - a human being is never redundant).

  7. Guy - you might think so. One of the supposed advantages of being a trading fund is that we can build up balances and even borrow money if required. But, unfortunately, our masters won't swallow a plan in which we lose money for the next few years, and we are required to come up with a budget that balances. (In the good years, when the money was rolling in, the requirement was to improve our efficiency - defined as the work we did divided by the cost of doing it - so in those years our income was more or less irrelevant.) Plus of course they now want us to do more policy work as well. Interesting times, as ever.

  8. A national IPO is not a goal in itself; it only makes sense if it provides services that are not at least equally well provided by others.

    As a patent covering the UK can alternatively be obtained from the EPO, and as trademarks and designs covering the UK can alternatively be obtained from OHIM, one could reasonably wonder whether the continued existence of the UKIPO still serves any purpose.

    One could also wonder whether UK industry - in its capacity as a third party - is served by the existence of a body that grants cheap patents: as has been rightly observed above, a UK patent is about as expensive as one excess EPO claim fee. The disadvantage resulting from one's competitor being able to obtain cheap patents might have been compensated by an above-average examination, but that is doubtful in view of the fact that the UKIPO does not meet the PCT minimum requirements.

    Finally, the very existence of national IPRs hampers the functioning of the internal market, so that it is better to close down national IP offices.

  9. A start-up company with a good invention but little time or money might well argue that part of the services provided by the IPO - good value for money, quality and efficiency - are precisely those which are not offered by the EPO or PCT route, and thus the value of national offices remains.

    National IPRs can also be claimed through the EPO and PCT. Using the same reasoning as above, are those going to be shut down too, or merely prevent people from obtaining protection for anything other than worldwide? Given the cost involved, I suspect patent application numbers would be severely depleted if this were the case.

  10. Anonymous Thursday, April 09, 2009 2:30:00 queries the reason for the existence of the IPO and makes comments concerning PCT documentation. Reading between the lines and making the reasonable [although possibly incorrect] assumption that anonymous is an EPO examiner the reasons are:-

    1) The UKIPO provide speed of search and examination that the EPO can only dream of;
    2) The UKIPO does meet PCT minimum documentation - they have access to EPO data;
    3) It was a sad day when the UKIPO ceased to be an IPEA - we used to get sense from the UKIPO and the chance for a reasoned dialogue. The reason why Chapter II is more rarely used these days is not just that Chapter I gets you a 30 month term now: it is that one usually gets nonsense from the EPO and very little or no dialogue. EPO examination practices have almost destroyed the point of Chapter II;
    4) The EPO is expensive through featherbedding of examiners - the salaries and pension arrangements at the EPO are amazing - even after the illegal tax treatment of pensions was stopped;
    5) National IPRs provide some competition to the EPO, so reining in their urge for sky-high fees;
    6) SMEs are crushed by the cost of the EPO so it is good that national patent offices exist to allow a lower cost route to protection;
    7) The benchmarking project comparing productivity of EPO, UKIPO and DPMA {German patent office] showed the UKIPO and DPMA very similar but productivity at the EPO significantly lower;
    8) So with an office that is faster, less expensive, and of comparable [in some areas superior] quality to the EPO, who would want the UKIPO gone?

    There are many other reasons to keep the UKIPO, I have just run out of steam,

  11. There are inventions that only UK protection is required. These usually relate to building and meeting the UK Building Regulations. Outside the UK few countries use or legislate on cavity walls. Rapid, low cost and effective protection through the UK IPO is valuable.

  12. ...but has the rebranding increased business? was it worth all that cost??


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