Full speed ahead for fast-track patents

The IPKat notes with approval that the new British coalition government has been quick off the mark, announcing "a new fast-track procedure for approving international patent applications that will cut waiting times by more than a year". According to last Friday's press release,
"The Intellectual Property Office ... today introduced the scheme to help tackle the worldwide backlog of patent applications, which costs the global economy an estimated £7.6 billion a year. The UK is among the first to introduce such a fast-track scheme [repetition of the above sentiment by David Cameron deleted]. Intellectual Property Minister Baroness Wilcox welcomed the announcement. She said: “Innovation is one of the main driving forces for Britain’s economic recovery. Delays in dealing with patent applications prevent firms from expanding and creating new jobs [Evidence?]. ... “The new fast-track procedure will make it quicker for business to turn innovation and ideas into products and jobs.
“Britain is leading the way in identifying and dealing with the patent backlog [This makes up for the country's miserable performance in the Eurovision Song Contest]. I hope other countries will establish similar fast-track schemes to tackle this problem.” [That's magnanimous: a lesser soul might have wished that British competitiveness would be at the expense of its competitors ...]
The new procedure will apply to applications filed under the international Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT). The UK is one of 142 countries which have signed up to the Treaty. Under the PCT, applications undergo a preliminary assessment of their patentability before being passed to individual nations to consider the details. The Treaty aims to stop work being duplicated when an applicant wants patent protection for the same invention in several countries.

Now businesses and individuals can apply for their application to be dealt with under the PCT (UK) Fast-Track when it has been approved in the international phase. Applicants requesting the fast-track service will receive an examination report within two months. Under current timescales this could take more than 18 months.

The examination report will either approve the application or detail any changes needed before a UK patent can be granted. Any substantial issues will have been addressed in the international phase.

The UK is among the first to introduce a fast–track procedure. It is hoped other countries will establish similar schemes to encourage applicants to make full use of the international phase. This will help deal with the global backlog of patent applications.

The new scheme will work in the same way as the IPO’s existing fast-track procedures, which include the ‘Green Channel’ for inventions with environmental benefits".
The IPKat is acutely aware that the ability to slow-track an application is as useful to applicants as the facility to fast-track them; he is of course pleased that applicants now have a choice. The secret is finding the formula that guides the applicant to take the decision that is right for his specific industrial and commercial needs. Merpel says, I do hope someone is going to compare the economic impact, in terms of investment and employement creation, in markets that offer fast-tracking with those that don't. This looks like a great opportunity for some really useful research.

Fast track here and here
Slow track here
Full speed ahead for fast-track patents Full speed ahead for fast-track patents Reviewed by Jeremy on Monday, May 31, 2010 Rating: 5


  1. Just as "downsizing" was replaced by "rightsizing" I guess "fast tracking" will be replaced by "right tracking". For most of my clients it is best to get a quick grant in the US. For EP a nice first substantive official action followed by years and years of waiting for the next will save the client a lot of annuity fees.

  2. I am having difficulty following the logic of this announcement.

    Firstly, if this so-called "fast-track" applies to PCT originating applications, then most applicants able to take advantage of it have already made a business decision to delay national applications. This is presumably not from any desire to avoid expansion, job creation, or turn innovations into products.

    Secondly, it seems likely that this scheme will be used more by foreign applicants than British applicants. So how will that assist Britain's economic recovery?

    Thirdly, I was not under the impression that the UK backlog was particularly bad. Last time I had a client enter national phase in the UK (as opposed to the EPO) was admittedly a couple of years ago, however the first examination report issued within five months of national phase entry. This compares with around 18 months in New Zealand, over two years in the US, and nealry 18 months after requesting examination in Australia, for the same application.

    I have nothing against fast-tracking of applications where possible, and certainly nothing against national patent offices avoiding duplication of work and taking advantage of other offices' work product where appropriate. All such initiatives are to be welcomed.

    However, I do have an allergy to political spin, especially when generated with suspicious rapidity by newly-installed governments.


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