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The UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO) has launched a consultation into possible changes to the way it publishes patent applications, including the possibility of an automatic system.
In consultation guidelines published this week, the IPO said it was receiving increasing numbers of patent applications but that it was aware not all applicants wanted the same application process.
Currently, the office publishes patent applications approximately 18 months after the applications have been filed and only after a search on how likely they are to be granted has been carried out.
But the office has said it is considering making the current system more flexible.
Among its suggestions are long-term plans to “simplify and automate” more of the process over the coming years in order to make applications more readily available.
The document said an automated system could allow applicants to choose to have their applications published at any point prior to the 18 months, regardless of whether a search has been performed, provided they have paid an application fee.
“Applicants would then be free to continue with or withdraw their application in line with their particular requirements,” the office said.
Another possible change suggested includes earlier publication of applications that are likely to not succeed.
Known as an Action Before Search, if an examiner believes an application has “serious issues”, he or she may write to the applicant before carrying out a search and offer a refund of the fee if they withdraw their application, the IPO said.
Claiming that around 25% of such applications are not withdrawn, the IPO said this may be because applicants are simply looking to have an application published.
“If an applicant only wants publication of their application, but not to progress further, it would seem to be an inefficient use of IPO resources ... the IPO could instead allow applicants in this position to receive accelerated publication without a search being performed,” the office said.
Interested parties can respond to the consultation by email or post. The comment period runs until September 26.
UKIPO, patent application, patent