You heard it here first: UK Government ponders IP Draughts’ question

Readers with a good memory will recall a posting on this blog last Summer, in which we discussed the Hargreaves recommendation that:

The UK Intellectual Property Office [UK IPO] should draw up plans to improve accessibility of the IP system to smaller companies who will benefit from it.  This should involve access to lower cost providers of integrated IP legal and commercial advice.

In that posting we posed the following question:

Might the examples of licensed conveyancers and professional will-writers, relatively new breeds of quasi-professionals who compete with solicitors, provide Government with a template that they feel could be extended to patent writing?  Could we see the emergence of a new, paralegal-level adviser on patents who will provide a cheap, consumer-focussed service?

IP Draughts has just downloaded the UK Government’s Innovation and Research Strategy for Growth, which was presented to Parliament in the last few days.  IP Draughts was stunned to see the following statement in paragraph 3.23:

The IPO will further consult businesses, business advisors and IP specialists on providing additional specific lower cost legal advice at a ‘paralegal’ level.

IP Draughts may be putting two and two together and making five, but it seems remarkably coincidental that the Government should have chosen to use the word paralegal. 

The important question is whether there is any merit in the idea of pointing poor SMEs to paralegal-level advisers.  IP Draughts suspects he knows what most readers of this blog will think of this idea.

IP Draughts is reading through the rest of the Government’s 96 page (excluding foreword etc) strategy document.  It gives an impression that there is plenty of activity and focus within Government on supporting innovation.  The provision of advisory services to SMEs seems to be a very minor part of the Government’s strategy.

1 Comment

Filed under Legal policy, Legal Updates

One response to “You heard it here first: UK Government ponders IP Draughts’ question

  1. This could be a fantastic step forward for the patent attorney profession. Patent applications that are not professionally drafted are a gift horse for us. If we are asked to deal with them during prosecution, we can spend hours arguing over amendment issues and extension of disclosure as we desperately try to hammer through a claim that is vaguely useful to the applicant. If we are brought in after grant, then what could have been a straightforward infringement case becomes one ridden with difficult questions of interpretation and validity. I know; I’ve been there often enough.

    Of course, most of us are actually “customer-focussed” enough to realise that this is not in the best interests of the patent system as a whole. This is, naturally, why we try to draft nice clear specifications rather than ones that have lots of things we can argue about later.

    The point is that this is an attempt to solve the symptom, not the problem. The patent attorney profession arose in the first place because the patent system was so complex and lawyers were too expensive. We were therefore created as a “lower-cost provider” intended to “provide a cheap, consumer-focussed service”. We think we still are. If costs need to come down further, then the way to do this is to remove some of the pointless things that we spend our time and our clients’ money arguing about. For example:

    – is there really any value in amending specifications to use SI units throughout? Do we really think that a reader able to understand the invention cannot convert from psi to Newtons-per-square-metre?

    – Likewise, what value is added by the two-part form of claim, and by inserting an acknowledgement of the prior art?

    – Not extending the disclosure of a text is important… but the EPO sometimes insists on what is virtually a “wordsearch” test for disclosure. Does this help anyone?

    – a simple, clear statement as to what is patentable, to replace s1(1)(d) and to acknowledge the changes in the nature of technology since the 1970s, would eliminate 70-80% of UKIPO Hearings at a stroke.

    But no-one in power really understands that this is where the money is wasted, because none of them really understand how the patent system works in practice. Yet somehow, despite the fact that they can’t understand it, they conclude that it must be suited to less-qualified staff…

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