The UK Intellectual Property Office is currently overhauling its digital services, with a view to improving the way in which it provides its services by automating as many processes as possible. The first range of new digital services are due to be launched in Spring 2024, and in preparation for this the IPO is undertaking a series of public consultations to seek feedback in relation to the changes proposed.
The results of the first public consultation were published in August 2023, the highlights being:
- the Office intends to operate its digital services 24/7, subject to availability, although deadlines relating to IP applications that fall on weekends or public holidays will continue to be deferred until the next working day;
- the Office plans to extend its participation in the WIPO DAS (Digital Access Service) system to trade marks and designs, so as to simplify the process for obtaining and sharing priority documents, and to reduce the need for certified physical priority documents;
- the Office will seek to harmonise the period for paying renewal fees to 6 months for all types of registered IP rights;
- in contentious proceedings, the Office will seek to grant Hearing Officers the right to strike out proceedings or give summary judgments; and
- the Office will investigate ways in which to improve enforcement of unpaid costs awards, although the Office has decided not to allow unpaid costs awards to be registered as County Court Judgments (CCJs).
The second public consultation has recently been launched, inviting comments by 31 October 2023. The second consultation covers the following areas:
- introduction of an online inspection service, whereby applicants and third parties are given online access to documents relating to trade mark and design applications and proceedings (subject to confidentiality and data protection issues);
- whether the rules relating to series trade mark applications (whereby a single application can be filed to cover up to six variations of the same mark) should be revised or removed;
alignment of the payment periods for Supplementary Protection Certificates (SPCs) with renewal periods for other IP rights;
- changing the rules regarding the provision of inventor addresses within patent applications;
- and ways in which the Office can encourage more mediation within IP disputes.
The results of the second consultation are awaited with interest, particularly insofar as the consultation extends to online inspection of documents given that a number of other IP Offices around the world (in particular, the EU Intellectual Property Office and the US Patent & Trademark Office) already provide such an online inspection service.