Proposed changes to UK patent law could make it cheaper to apply for patents and make them easier to enforce and protect than at present. They could enable universities to make the most of the intellectual property they generate.
Tom Hockaday, chairman of the UK Universities Companies Association and executive director of Oxford University's Isis Innovation, said the proposed changes would help to speed up the researching and examining process. But he added that the real costs of patenting lay in patent attorney fees.
Proposals include giving the Patent Office more power to investigate challenges to patents and allowing it to try to clarify attempts to settle disputes without litigation.
The Patent Office is consulting on the proposals. Some of the changes are required by the European Patent Convention and will ensure that a single application can be made for patents valid in 24 European countries.
The Patent Office also wants to be able to set its own fees for patenting. At present, there is no charge to file a patent, but it costs £200 to search for other patents and, if successful, publish the patent.
The consultation closes on February 19 2002.
The results of a recent Patent Office consultation on grace periods are expected in the next few weeks.