Answer ... The main sources of patent law in the United Kingdom are legislation (including UK legislation, EU legislation and international treaties) and case law.
The key statute is the Patents Act 1977 (as amended), which sets out (among other things) the requirements for obtaining a patent, the resulting rights provided and the remedies for patent infringement in the United Kingdom. The Patents Act 1977 gives effect to the European Patent Convention 1973 (EPC) (as amended) in the United Kingdom. This is supplemented by the Patents Rules 2007 (as amended), which set out procedural rules for a variety of activities relating to the UK IP Office (UK IPO), including:
- filing patent applications;
- opposing the grant of a patent;
- challenging the validity of a granted patent;
- bringing infringement proceedings before the UK IPO; and
- obtaining validity and infringement opinions from the UK IPO.
The Civil Procedure Rules govern the procedure in litigation before the courts.
EU law also plays a role in some areas of patent law, such as:
- supplementary protection certificates (governed by the Supplementary Protection Certificate Regulation ((EC) 469/2009));
- the legal protection of biotechnological inventions (governed by the Biotechnology Directive (98/44/EC)); and
- the enforcement of IP rights (governed by the IP Enforcement Directive (2004/83/EC)).
International treaties also play a role in UK patent law, such as the EPC (referred to above), the Patent Cooperation Treaty 1970 and the Unified Patent Court Agreement.
Finally, as the United Kingdom is a common law jurisdiction, case law also forms a very important part of the law, in addition to the legislation set out above. There is a binding system of precedent in the United Kingdom, although England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland each have their own court systems. In answering these questions, we refer to litigation before the courts of England and Wales. In addition, although decisions of the Technical Boards of Appeal of the European Patent Office are not binding on the courts of England and Wales, they are of particular interest.
Answer ... Any person may apply for a patent in the United Kingdom, either alone or jointly with another. If the applicant is not the inventor, it must identify the inventor and explain the basis on which it is entitled to be granted the patent (eg, being entitled by operation of law or prior agreement, or being the successor in title to the inventor or such person).
Although it is possible for applicants to prepare the documents required for filing themselves, it is common for applicants to engage patent attorneys to assist them.