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Reviewed 10 March 2010

UK and US announce action plan to reduce global patent backlogs

The UK and US governments today agreed to develop an action plan for reducing patent processing backlogs in both countries' patent office. Patent backlogs hinder the deployment of innovation and have clear adverse effects on the global economy. According to a study by London Economics released on behalf of the UK Intellectual Property Office (UK-IPO), the first study that attempts to quantify the economic impact of patent backlogs, the cost to the global economy of the delay in processing patent applications may be as much as £7.65 billion each year.

Today, David Lammy, UK Minister of State for Higher Education and Intellectual Property and David Kappos, Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), committed both the UK-IPO and the USPTO to develop a plan to optimise reuse of work on patent applications that are filed jointly at the USPTO and the UK-IPO. To this end, the offices will identify all areas of reutilization potential by the end of this calendar year, and shall pursue measures designed to facilitate maximum reuse by building confidence in the work done by each office.

David Lammy said: "If we are serious about economic recovery then we cannot sit back and watch good ideas go to waste. I want to see an international system that works efficiently to provide innovative businesses with high quality patents in the timescales they need. The UK is working hard to secure our competitive advantage in innovative, high-growth sectors like advanced manufacturing, the life sciences, low-carbon and others. Patents act as a short-term reward to innovators, so that they offset the costs involved in developing their ideas. I welcome the joint working that we have agreed with David Kappos today to tackle this issue head on to reduce unnecessary duplication of work and maintain quality between patent offices."

David Kappos said: "Every quality patent application that sits on the shelf represents jobs not created. For that reason, the USPTO has made reduction of patent backlog our highest priority. At the USPTO, we have already undertaken substantial reform of our system for processing patent applications. Work-sharing is an important feature of this reform. Thus far, however, our work-sharing efforts at the PTO have largely been applicant driven and therefore dependent on whether individual applicants know about, and appreciate, the clear benefits of work-sharing. So I am particularly delighted that we are today embracing with the UK an office-driven mechanism for reutilization of work."

Today’s agreement commits the USPTO and UK-IPO to a follow on study into the effect of the backlog on competitors and to an ambitious work-sharing collaboration, with the goal of reutilizing each other’s work to the maximum extent possible. To this end, the offices will look to establish an office-, as opposed to applicant-, driven system for optimizing availability and reuse of work results on commonly-filed applications.

In addition to unveiling the USPTO-IPO agreement, Minister Lammy released the results of a study prepared for UK-IPO by London Economics entitled ’Economic Study on Patent Backlogs and a System of Mutual Recognition PDF document(1.37Mb)', which examined the economic impact of delays in processing patents. According to the study, patent processing delays prevent hi tech businesses such as telecomms, aviation and engineering sectors from getting to market as quickly as they otherwise could. This results in a loss of competitiveness, delays in R&D and an overall reduction in the incentive to create and innovate.

Notes to editors

  • Videos from the event are available.
  • The Intellectual Property Office is within the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) and is responsible for the national framework of Intellectual Property rights, comprising patents, designs, trade marks and copyright.
  • Intellectual Property plays a central role in translating innovation and creativity into economic growth and social benefit.
  • For enquiries about the Intellectual Property Office press or media activities please contact James Thomson on +44 (0) 20 7034 2847 or Katie Phillips on +44 (0) 1633 814326.

Date of release: 10 March 2010