The UK government has published its response to the transformation consultation which ran in late 2022 and ended on 6 January this year.
The government sought views on a number of changes related to the Intellectual Property Office’s (IPO) new digital services, and tribunal function.
The government’s response sets out important operational changes that IPO customers can expect when the IPO’s new digital services are launched in spring 2024.
It also sets out a number of technical areas where the government will consider amending legislation in the future. This will help modernize the IP system and give the IPO more flexibility in how its services operate, ensuring the UK’s IP system remains fit for the future.
The key outcomes of the consultation relate to:
- 24/7 services;
- Self-service for represented customers ;
- Legislative changes to modernize the IP system;
- Digital and dynamic media for patent applications;
- IP hearings and tribunal processes .
IPO customers will be able to access the new digital services 24/7, subject to availability. Deadlines related to IP applications that fall on weekends or public holidays will continue to be deferred to the next working day.
Self-service for represented customers
The new ‘One IPO’ service will provide new, digital customer accounts that will allow all customers to view and manage IP online for the first time. All customers will be able to set up their own customer accounts, including the rights owner and their representatives.
The government wants to make it easier for customers and their representatives to view and access their IP rights. This will allow represented customers to have more control of their rights and how they work with their representatives. The new service will also make it easier for all users to give others access to applications they are working on.
The IPO will ensure represented applicants and attorneys can work together effectively:
- Represented applicants will be able to make simple administrative changes like changing their name, address or representative automatically via their account. Any changes made by the applicant or by their representative will have a full audit trail, detailing what changes were made, when and by whom. Customers will be able to set up notifications to alert them to changes that are made at key stages of an application or transaction.
- The IPO will continue to query where a response or a request to change an ongoing application is received from a represented customer, rather than the appointed representative.
The government has outlined various areas where it will consider amending legislation to support new IPO processes or practices in the future.
These proposed changes will give the IPO the flexibility to direct the format of patent applications and remove fees for certain services where appropriate. They will also allow the IPO to send digital certified copies of documents.
The government will seek to harmonise the period for paying for renewals to six months across IP rights. The government will not seek to harmonise the period for requesting restorations across the rights.
Digital and dynamic media for patent applications
There will be no changes to the types of media that are accepted in patent applications at this time.
The IPO will engage with other patent offices and seek to build international understanding and acceptance of colour figures in patent applications.
IP hearings and tribunals
The government has set out some operational changes and is seeking to clarify IPO’s powers on IP hearings and tribunals. Development on the new digital hearings and tribunals service is due to begin in the next few months and will be completed in late 2025.
The IPO’s CEO Adam Williams said:
“We are grateful to everyone who took the time to respond to our transformation consultation. This represents another important milestone in our One IPO Transformation Programme, as we approach the launch of our new digital patents service in spring next year.”
“As we prepare for further consultation in the coming weeks, your continued support and engagement remain vital.”
Daniel Chew, CIPA President, said:
“We welcome the publication of the response by the UK IPO to its digital transformation consultation and see this as another step in the process of futureproofing its services.
“We thank the Office for listening to us during the first consultation on various issues which might affect how things work in practice for our members. In particular, I am grateful to the IPO for maintaining that deadlines related to IP applications that fall on weekends or public holidays will continue to be deferred to the next working day whilst allowing customers access to the new digital services 24/7.
“These changes will provide a more modern IP system of the sort that both the public and IP professionals now expect. We know that the IPO has further improvements planned and we look forward to future consultations.”
The new digital patents service will launch in spring 2024, with trademarks, designs and tribunals following in Autumn 2025.
A second transformation consultation is expected to launch in the next few weeks.
The proposals in the second consultation will have a greater focus on trademarks and designs specific issues than the first consultation, but are not limited to these areas.
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