Cast your mind back to December 2012 when the Unitary Patent Regulation and Unified Patent Agreement were approved by the European Parliament, and you may recall a lot of press releases explaining what great value for money the unitary patent would be. In particular, we were told that the unitary patent would bring patent protection in Europe financially in line with patent protection in other countries, such as the US and China.
Back then, the fees relating to the unitary patent were completely unknown. Fifteen months later, we know little more than we did then: it seems likely that there will be no fee for validating a unitary patent, and rumours are that the opt-out fee will be in the region of €50 – €100, but we are still in the dark when it comes to the most important fees of all: the renewal fees of the unitary patent. The only titbit that has recently escaped the lips of anyone in the know came from the EPO president, who said cryptically in December 2013 that the renewal fees would be “higher than many would hope, but lower than some might fear”.
The level at which the renewal fees are set will be key in determining whether the unitary patent can deliver on its promise of value for money. The Select Committee responsible for setting the renewal fees must balance on the one hand the need to keep the unitary patent financially attractive to industry, and on the other hand the need for the unitary patent to be self-financing. The second part of this equation is difficult for us to assess from the outside. The first half, however, is susceptible to a bit of speculation.
So, in this post, which will feature a lot of graphs, we will be taking a look at how value-for-money (in terms of renewal fees) differs among countries within the EPC and how the EPC and Unitary Patent countries currently compare to the US and China, and we will consider what level the Unitary Patent fees might need to be if they are to match the value-for-money offered by Chinese and US patents. We’re even going to go so far as to put out a prediction. We fully expect to be proved completely wrong, but hope that throwing out some actual numbers might generate some interesting discussion from commentators…
Back in September we reported on the result of the Magmatic v PMS case in which the Trunki faced off against the Kiddee Case at the High Court before the Hon. Mr Justice Arnold. At the High Court, PMS’s Kiddee case was found to infringe Magmatic’s Community Registered Design (CRD) for the Trunki.
However, PMS were given leave to appeal the case, and in January the case was heard in the Appeal Court before Lord Justice Moses, Lady Justice Black and Lord Justice Kitchin. The judgement has just been made available, and reveals that the Appeal Court reversed the High Court’s judgement, and ruled that the Kiddee case did not, in fact, create the same overall impression as Magmatic’s CRD, and so did not infringe. IPcopy takes you for another ride through the suitcase-animal fair…
The Lego movie. Is. Awesome. And certainly much more fun than revising for the EQE pre-exam, which is what I probably should have been doing with my Saturday afternoon (here’s hoping the claim analysis section is all about co-operable building blocks). There are thrills; there are spills; there’s some beautifully poignant humour. It’s the Matrix meets Toy Story 3.
Enough advertising: the reason I get to write about the Lego Movie here is that there’s a delightful little patent sub-sub-sub-plot involving Lego Batman. Which gives me the perfect excuse to assess the IP reference for our IP Hit or Miss series, in the interests of IP education, you understand. The potential ‘spoilers’ are so minor as to be barely worthy of the word, but if you don’t want to see a few paraphrased words from the movie, you may wish to look away now.
IPcopy commentator Antonio Pizzoli has pointed us in the direction of the EPO’s draft rules relating to the Unitary Patent Regulation which you can find here (thanks Antonio!). IPcopy hadn’t come across this document before, and it makes for an interesting, if slightly worrying, read.
Clearly it is a work in progress, and the draft is peppered with interesting comments and alternative proposals.
Most readers in the patent profession will be aware that changes are afoot in the way trainee patent attorneys will qualify as Chartered Patent Attorneys (CPAs). The changes are spearheaded by IPReg, the regulatory body for patent and trade mark attorneys, and IPReg has released a consultation document, inviting comments.
The proposed changes affect both the foundation and advanced level exams and are, in short, the abolishment of all the foundation exams, to be replaced with approved taught university courses (currently there is an option between these two routes: as a rough estimate, 20-25% of candidates typically take the foundations route), and the abolishment of Advanced papers P3 (drafting) and P4 (amendment) to be replaced with the equivalent European Qualifying Examination (EQE) papers, or the EQE as a whole (currently, candidates may either sit P3 and P4, or may gain exemption by passing the equivalent EQE papers: many candidates will sit P3 and P4 at least once, even if they ultimately use the exemption for qualification).
As someone who is currently training in this profession, and who, last October, sat three of the exams that would be jettisoned by these changes (two foundation papers and P3), I have some fairly strong feelings on IPReg’s suggestions. They are not positive. I confess that I morph into something of a grumpy old man when the subject comes up in conversation, so this post might get a bit ranty. It’s probably best enjoyed with some kind of rousing, team-building, battle-inducing tune in the background*.
Got a fantastic invention? Wondering whether or not it’s worth filing a patent application for it? Then definitely don’t pay any attention whatsoever to this flowchart, and go and get some proper advice from somewhere…
As ipcopymark has already reported, this week David Willetts has proposed amendments to Clause 13 of the Intellectual Property Bill that are, in IPcopy’s view, a step in the right direction. Hot on the heels of David Willetts’ amendments, Iain Wright has now put forward further amendments. A tracked copy of the proposed changes to Clause 13 is below, with Willetts’ proposals in red, and Wright’s proposals in blue.
Wright’s proposals are an interesting bunch. They expand on the notion that the copying must be deliberate, and bring in a criteria a person commits an offence if he knows that the acts committed would infringe the registered design, or is reckless as to whether they infringe the registered design. However, the proposed amendment to subsection 5 removes the defence that the design right was not infringed, replacing it with the criteria that the defendant reasonably believed that the registered design was not infringed. IPcopy’s view is that it would far preferable to keep both of these defences. There is also a puzzling addition of a new subsection 7A which defines the term ‘design right’ as including an unregistered Community design. Since the term ‘design right’ does not actually appear in this section it is unclear to IPcopy what this new subsection would add. If you have any thoughts, please let us know!
Also worth noting are Wright’s proposed additions to Clause 1 (that within 12 months the Secretary of State will undertake a review as to how these provisions have advanced the design industry in the UK), and Clause 8 (that within 6 months the Secretary of State will report on plans to publicise the law changes with the objective of educating holders of design rights), and a proposed new Section of the Patents Act that would introduce a “Director General of Intellectual Property Rights” with responsibility for, amongst other things, promoting the creation of new IP and educating consumers as to the importance and nature of IP rights.
So far, Austria is the only state to have ratified the UPC Agreement, with the remaining UPC countries being slow to take the second spot on the ratification podium. But unconfirmed rumours (with thanks to Michael Carter of Wragge & Co for the heads-up) are now circulating that Malta may have ratified the UPC Agreement.
An article in the Malta Independent explains that the Agreement was discussed in the Maltese parliament, and states that “PN MP Jason Azzopardi said that he had signed the ratification on behalf of a PN-led government.”
A delve into the Maltese Parliament’s website reveals that yesterday’s proceedings (21 January 2014) included a debate on Motion 78 -Agreement on a Unified Patent Court – Presented by the Parliamentary Secretary for Justice. Among the text of the motion (thanks Google tranlsate - my Maltese just isn’t what it used to be) is the statement that “Malta has now passed the ratification process , to be carried out in accordance with article 3 of the Act on Ratification Treaties ( Cap 304 ) Authorizing the Maltese Parliament to ratify the Agreement ( Patent Court Industrial unified ) Unified Patent Court ( UPC ) which was signed on 19 February 2013“.
We haven’t been able to confirm the ratification just yet, but all signs indicate that Malta has indeed ratified the Agreement and taken the number 2 spot…
Emily Weal 22 January 2014
Malta, Spain and Virgin v Zodiac: Why ignoring the Malta problem will delegate the decision to the EPO
There has been a resurgence of Virgin v Zodiac in IP news recently, owing to a UK Court of Appeal Decision that upheld Mr Justice Floyd’s High Court decision in full (see, for example, Amerikat’s IPKat article here, and an Article in The Lawyer here [with which IPcopy heartily disagrees]).
Virgin v Zodiac was, of course, very important in overturning the Unilin principal relating to awards of damages. However, another important issue was caught up in this case, which is now catching the eyes of IP reporters, and which has some surprising relevance to Unified Patent Court matters: the UK patent that was the subject of this litigation should never have existed, and only came into being as a result of a procedural error made by the EPO’s Examining Division. Specifically, the Examining Division failed to notice that the Applicant had explicitly asked that the UK not be designated when the European application had been filed, and had erroneously given the application a European designation. (more…)
IPcopy will be taking a Christmas hiatus while we all eat too much food and watch Doctor Who, so you will all have to make do without us for a week or two. In case anyone finds themselves in need of an IP-fix over the Christmas period, we’ll leave something to keep you entertained.
And what could possibly be more festive than a good Christmassy invention? Well – twelve Christmasy inventions set to music, that’s what!
All together now: On the first day of Christmas my patent attorney gave to me…