Jackie Whiteley is a party activist and the owner of a University spin-out. Follow Jackie on Twitter.
The main task of this government is to stimulate economic growth, and one way to do this is to change the patent laws in this country to even the playing field for British business. Currently we have a gap in the British intellectual property laws which benefits our competitors because we don’t have Utility Model Patents. These are fast track patents that benefit rapidly moving technologies and small and emerging businesses in particular. If Utility Model Patents are introduced, more businesses will be able to see their investment protected and there will be greater take up of the Patent Box tax incentives that phase in from 2013.
Whilst many of our competitors abroad have a simple, fast and economical way of protecting their innovations, we are left in a vulnerable position. At the moment, the only way to protect innovations so that rights can be legally enforceable is by making a standard application to the UK Intellectual Property Office for an Invention Patent. This is costly for small businesses, it can take up to three years to be enforceable, and many applications do not pass the stringent rules for novelty or inventiveness.
Many of our international competitors, and particularly the emerging economies of China, South Korea and Brazil, have recently adopted a dual system for patents along the lines that Germany has operated for over 100 years. Utility Model Patents are now used in 77 countries.
The question is why we have failed to recognise their importance to our economy despite there being several proposals for their implementation in the United Kingdom and in Europe. This is an excellent example of the inertia in the system which has stood in the way of our interests. France, Germany and other EU countries have acted unilaterally so why don’t we?