The UK's Intellectual Property Office has launched an online search facility called Ipsum, to help people find information on patents and patent applications.
On Thursday, the IPO said the free
online patent information and document inspection service would
benefit "businesses researching patents, patent attorneys working for
clients protecting their IP rights and potential inventors looking for
the best way to find information on patent applications".
Prior to Ipsum's release, each document request cost £5. Delivery times sometimes meant documents were already out of date by
the time they were received.
"Ipsum is free so it removes unnecessary costs for businesses,"
intellectual property minister Baroness Wilcox said in a statement.
"Patent examiners around the world will also benefit as they can now
immediately understand why the UK Intellectual Property Office did, or
did not, grant a patent. This could help reduce the global backlog of
applications benefiting UK business hoping to get their patents
processed in another country."
The launch of Ipsum may also answer some of the concerns expressed in
Hargreaves's review of the UK's intellectual property regime.
Hargreaves, all of whose recommendations have been accepted by the
government, had called for patent backlogs to be lessened in order to
lead to higher-quality patents.
Hargreaves also said that the UK, which does not allow most
software innovations to be patented, should continue to resist
However, a High
Court judgement this week has made it easier to obtain some
software patents in the UK.
The oilfield services company Halliburton won an appeal on
Wednesday over the patentability of its design and simulation
software, which is used to make drill bits. Halliburton had previously
made four applications to the IPO, only to be told that its
inventions were not patentable as they covered methods of performing a
"mental act" — in other words, they simply automated what an
engineer could work out in his or her head.
Judge Birss of the Patents Court decided that the software was
"more than a computer program as such", as it represented a method of
designing a drill bit that went beyond a human thought process. "The
claimed method cannot be performed by purely mental means and that is
the end of the matter," Birss said, ruling that computer-implemented
methods "cannot fall within the mental act exclusion".
Birss also said that, under the law, "computer-implemented
inventions are just as patentable in the UK" as in the European Patent
Office (EPO), which is perceived by some as being more permissive
regarding software patents. However, he was careful not to "interpret
out of existence" the exclusion, found in both the UK Patents Act and
the European Patent Convention, for "computer programs as such".
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