The patent profession has always had one eye on the future in order to meet the needs of forward-thinking innovators and to understand technical advances which make a better world for us all. This article discusses the ways in which IP legislation will shape the work of patent attorneys in the future, on both a domestic and a global scale.

There has never been a more exciting time to consider becoming a patent attorney. Innovation, creativity and new technologies are the engine room of the UK’s economy, and legislative changes at home and abroad are changing the face of intellectual property protection.

The UK profession is estimated to be worth around £1billion to the UK economy and operates on a global scale. Whilst the basic ingredients for those entering the profession remain the same – recruiting the very best scientists, engineers and technologists to train in this area of law – there are many new challenges and opportunities that will shape the profession in the future.

At home

The IP (Unjustified Threats) Bill in its final stages in parliament and should come into force later in 2017. The bill aims to:

  • Protect businesses and individuals against intimidation to gain a commercial advantage where there has been no IP infringement.
  • Make it easier for those involved in a dispute to negotiate a settlement and avoid litigation.
  • Bring consistency across the law as it applies to patents, trade marks and designs.

CIPA has contributed to the debates surrounding the bill since it was first proposed by the Law Commission and has provided written and verbal evidence to parliament to help ensure that the legislation is as effective as possible.

Further afield

The market in Asia is booming, with more and more technological innovation continuing to emerge from countries such as Japan, China and South Korea. The United States remains a leader in the creative industries. Businesses from countries such as these are asserting their IP on a global scale and many rely on the expertise and skills of UK Chartered Patent Attorneys to protect their IP assets in foreign markets.

Seismic political changes are altering the UK’s relationship with Europe. However, unlike many other professions, UK Chartered Patent Attorneys will remain largely untouched by them. This is because the European Patent Office and the European Patent Convention are not EU institutions, so UK attorneys qualified as European patent attorneys (virtually all) will continue to be able to conduct European patent work entirely unaffected by Brexit.

Greater harmonisation of IP rights across Europe is being sought through the creation of a patent system which will have unitary effect across the continent and the introduction of a Unified Patent Court (UPC). Despite the referendum vote to leave the EU in June 2016, the UK government confirmed in November 2016 its intention to ratify the international agreement that would bring the system into effect. The Unitary Patent and UPC moved another step closer in December 2016 when the government signed the Court’s Protocol on Privileges and Immunities – a legal requirement that will enable UPC judges to carry out their activities once the court opens. At the time of going to press, the government had not formally ratified the UPC Agreement. If all goes to plan the UPC‘s central division, with seats in Paris, London and Munich, could open its doors as early as December 2017.

There is also a drive to simplify procedures for obtaining IP rights in Europe through initiatives being spearheaded by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the European Patent Office. The use of online central filing systems and data sharing by national IP offices is increasing, whilst search systems are becoming more refined. For businesses with an international footprint, IP is now at the forefront of their strategic thinking. For those with in-house teams this means that patent attorneys are at the heart of major business decisions. For private practice attorneys it means offering wider services to industry, including strategic business advice.

The future of the profession

IP is big business, a global business. The future of the profession is very much linked to the development of IP legislation not only in the UK but, increasingly so, in other areas around the globe. The world recognises the strength and status of the UK profession, with UK Chartered Patent Attorneys being held in the highest regard. On joining the patent attorney profession in the UK you are entering a global profession which is rightly proud of its heritage.

As the profession and the international IP landscape changes, so CIPA changes with it. We will continue to provide effective domestic and international lobbying and new benefits and services to members to help them compete more effectively in the global marketplace. As a student you will receive advice and support throughout your training and will be part of a network of like-minded people working towards their professional qualifications. Once qualified, as a Fellow of CIPA you will benefit from continuing professional development as your career progresses, and a professional body which campaigns tirelessly on your behalf, to ensure that you are represented at the highest level and can influence policy-makers in governments in the UK and around the world.

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