Bill set to strengthen IP rights

UK businesses wishing to protect their products and technologies through patents and design rights are set to benefit from a new Intellectual Property Bill.

The Bill, published on 10 May, proposes changes that would help businesses to better understand what is protected under the law, reduce the need for costly litigation, and provide greater certainty for investors in new designs and technologies. Key provisions include:

  • the introduction of criminal penalties for copying UK registered designs and the strengthening of design protection. This is already the case for copyright and trademark disputes and brings parity to this area of IP law
  • proposals for a designs opinion service and an expanded patents opinions service. This would allow design or patent rights holders, or anyone else, to ask the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) to provide an expert opinion on whether a UK design or patent is valid or being infringed. This will help businesses assess the strength of their case before embarking on more formal and costly legal proceedings, and may help avoid litigation altogether
  • new powers to enable the UK to implement the Unitary Patent Court Agreement. The Court is a central part in introducing a single patent across almost all EU countries. It is estimated that this would lead to direct benefits to business of up to £40 million per year
  • allowing the sharing of information, between international patent offices, on unpublished patent applications to help clear existing backlogs and speed up clearance times. As a result, UK businesses who also apply for European, US and Japanese patents, in addition to a UK patent, could increase the value of their patents by £4.2million per annum
  • patent owners will have the option of marking their patented products with a web address that links to the details of the relevant patent number rather than having to put the patent numbers directly on the product in order to get maximum protection and make it easier for the public to access up-to-date patent information in relation to a particular product.

Business Secretary Vince Cable said: “Figures show that UK business invests nearly £16 billion in design each year, which represents 1.1 per cent of GDP. The changes in this Bill are to help SMEs and innovative businesses get on and grow.”

Minister for Intellectual Property Lord Younger said: “One of the key initiatives we have outlined is the introduction of criminal sanctions for deliberate copying of registered designs. This will be a deterrent to those who deliberately copy UK registered designs and provide greater protection for our hugely important design sector.”

If your business has intellectual property then you may be eligible for Patent Box or Research and Development (R&D) tax credits.

Patent Box, which took effect in April, enables eligible companies to benefit from a 10 per cent rate of corporation tax on all profits arising from qualifying patents and other intellectual property rights.

R&D tax credits increase tax relief against taxable profits. To qualify, a project must seek to achieve an advance in overall knowledge or capability in a field of science or technology. The relief covers costs such as staff, materials, payments to clinical trials volunteers, software, utilities and subcontracted expenditure. At present, small and medium-sized businesses can claim 225 per cent relief on qualifying expenditure. Larger companies can currently claim either 130 per cent tax relief, or, as of 1 April 2013, a 9.1 per cent ‘above the line’ tax credit. There must be a minimum claim of £10,000 of qualifying expenditure, although there is no upper limit.

At Milsted Langdon, our tax partners have particular expertise in helping businesses take advantage of these valuable tax saving opportunities. To find out how our specialists can help your business do the same, please contact us.

Link: Details of the Bill and its progress

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