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Reviewed 18 November 2010

UK-IPO launches a Consultation on the Patent Research Exception

As part of its work in taking forward the recommendations of the Gowers Review of Intellectual Property, the UK-IPO is seeking views on the effect of the patent research exception as allowed under Section 60(5) of the Patent Act 1977. This consultation PDF document(960Kb) has been launched with the aim of gathering evidence and to identify stakeholder concerns on this aspect of patent law. We are also keen to hear from those who are actively engaged in research activities.

A strong research base is vital to the competitiveness of the economy and to promote the well being of our society. It is important that the right balance exists between the opportunity to conduct research and the framework of intellectual property laws which can provide incentives for innovation and economic development.

Patent laws in most European countries include a "research exception" (or "research exemption") which permits use of a patented invention for experimental purposes without infringing the rights of the holder. The origin of the research exception lies in the draft Community Patent Convention (CPC) of 1975 and European Community member states agreed in 1989 to eliminate “as far as possible” the differences between national patent law and the provisions of the CPC. Any clarification or amendment of the research exception in this country would need to consider whether this would be necessary Europe-wide.

The consultation will run until 7 November 2008 and once completed we will analyse the results and publish our report on the findings and our proposed next steps bearing in mind the purpose of the consultation and the responses received. We aim to do this by the beginning of February 2009. Where we identify significant concerns we will seek the most practicable solution to resolve them.

Editors notes

  • Andrew Gowers undertook a review of Intellectual Property in 2005 and reported his findings to the Government in December 2006. On the patent research exception, the Gowers Review External Link reported that it was "not entirely clear what uses fall within the scope of the experimental use exception" and the lack of case laws “leads to uncertainty as to its scope”. The Government is committed to taking forward the recommendations of the Review.
  • For enquiries about the UK Intellectual Property Office press or media activities please contact Louise Hill on +44 (0)1633 814840.

Date of release: 7 July 2008