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Protecting patents in Europe and the UK

Nick Reeve and Paul Loustalan of Reddie & Grose evaluate the advantages of the UK patent system, as well as assessing European patent procedure

Technology rarely stands still and new technologies rarely exist in isolation. As technology convergence carries on at pace, understanding the pitfalls and the benefits of different patent systems can give you a competitive edge. In this article, we briefly discuss the key points of the European and UK routes to patent protection, and the relevant aspects of the UK courts.

Convergence: a more connected future

From the minute that a new innovation is created, entrepreneurs and developers seek new uses for the underlying technology. Nowhere is this seen more clearly than in the telecommunications field, where traditional telephones have evolved into mobile phones, camera phones, and finally smart phones – now powerful portable computers a million times faster than the computers that NASA used to put a man on the moon in 1969.

In the telecommunications field alone, a complex technological and legal infrastructure has been developed, involving patent standards and court developed procedures for licensing patents considered essential to such standards. With the deployment of 5G wireless technology in the UK and elsewhere, complex connected systems such as the Internet of Things are now possible. Consequently, the telecommunication patent standards underpinning 5G technology will now have a bearing on new and previously unrelated areas of industry and commerce.

This spread of computing and telecommunication considerations to other sectors is nowhere more apparent than in the automotive sector, in which connected self-driving cars powered by the latest developments in Artificial Intelligence (AI) will soon communicate with each other and with centralised control systems using 5G wireless technology.

The UK has a long history of making excellent contributions in this area, and we expect the UK market to continue to be of considerable importance in this more connected future.

UK innovation (the automotive industry and AI)

The UK government's recent Industrial Strategy paper set out four areas of focus, referred to as Grand Challenges, for which it intends to make funding available and drive innovation. Significantly, within this grand plan, two areas of focus are "Future Mobility" and "Artificial Intelligence and Data".

For the former challenge, the UK has a long and illustrious history of innovation in the automotive field, including developments of the internal combustion engine, the compression ignition engine, the two-stroke engine, the Stirling engine, and the hydrogen fuel cell. The Future Mobility Grand Challenge aims to continue this tradition by making available almost £250 million for research and development, as well as £1 billion to invest in low carbon powertrains. Both form part of the government's "Road to Zero: Next steps towards cleaner road transport" – a plan of nearly £1.5 billion earmarked for investment.

Research and development activity in the mobility field continues apace. The Silverstone Technology Cluster, a grouping of 3,500 companies (mostly automotive) in the arc between Oxford, Silverstone and Cambridge, has recently attracted interest, as it promises to bring the talent and research capabilities of the world's top two universities together with local world-class motorsport companies. The generation of key IP rights, secured both in the UK market and overseas appears inevitable, as collaboration between innovators leads to world-class development in technology.

For the second challenge, Artificial Intelligence and Data, the UK offers a long tradition of excellence. The UK's hi-tech super-clusters based in and around London and Cambridge are frequently ranked as the largest groupings of start-up technology companies in Europe, and a recent paper by the UK IPO (United Kingdom Intellectual Property office) highlights the UK's recent success stories, including start-ups such as Deepmind, Magic Pony Technology and Swiftkey.

Deepmind was purchased by Google in 2014 for £400 million, and is known for developing AlphaGo, the first computer program to beat a professional Go player on a full size board in 2016. Magic Pony Technology uses machine learning to improve video and image processing and was purchased by Twitter for £102 million in 2016, while Swiftkey uses AI for predictive texting and was purchased by Microsoft for £174 million in 2016. The UK IPO paper points out that the UK is in the top three countries worldwide in which AI-related patent applications, as a proportion of total patent applications filed, has risen most quickly (the others being the US and Australia), and that nearly 90% of first filed UK patent applications for AI innovations are filed overseas (a much larger percentage than for applications first filed in the US or China for example). According to UK IPO statistics, in 2017, key areas for grant were "transport", "instruments" and "electricity".

The UK patent system (lower costs and high quality)

Innovators have access to patent protection either nationally via the UK IPO or centrally via a European patent application filed at the EPO (European Patent Office) and designating the UK.

For companies based in the UK, first filing a patent application at the UK IPO offers low cost entry into the patent system and a quick high-quality examination and search, before deciding whether to file applications overseas. Indeed, some US applicants have been known to file in the UK as soon as a US provisional application has been filed at the USPTO, solely to benefit from the UK's swift combined search and examination procedure.

Official fees at the UK IPO are low. Official filing, search and examination fees presently cost no more than £320, including discounts available for electronic filing. Claims over 25 incur a small fee per claim, but generally no further official fees are due. Even renewal fees are only due after the grant of the patent, with the first fee being due on the fourth anniversary of the filing date.

The higher search, examination, designation and grant fees of the EPO reflect the wider geographical coverage offered by a European patent, as well as the EPO's investment in both quality of service for applicants, and its state-of-the-art patent information systems. For European applications, renewal fees are payable in respect of each year after the third. Nevertheless, once translation and local attorney costs are factored in, the breakeven point for filing a European application is usually reached if three or more applications in national countries are desired.

In cases where a client's budget does not stretch to filing a full European application, filing a national UK patent application is a cost effective way of securing protection in the European market. The UK is the second largest economy in Europe in terms of nominal GDP. For applications not originally filed in English, and for which an English translation of the application already exists for filing at the US PTO, protection in the UK can easily be added.

UK patents: a strategic fall-back or a complementary addition

Patent protection in the UK is available via both the national UK route, and by the designation of the UK in a granted European patent. This will continue whether or not the UK leaves the European Union, as will the ability of UK patent attorneys to file European applications. The EPO is not a European Union institution, and many non-EU states, such as Switzerland, Iceland, and Norway currently participate in the European Patent Organisation. UK-based patent attorneys frequently achieve the highest pass rates in the European patent attorney qualifying exams, and so are well placed to act for applicants worldwide.

For UK-based applicants, the UK application filed initially is often kept in force as a parallel pending application, even when protection (in the UK and other EPO participating countries) is pursued via a European patent application. This allows the applicant to take advantage of procedural benefits present in the UK system, such as the lack of an EPO style opposition procedure, a potentially more pro-applicant stance, and the fact that the UK patent application can sometimes reach grant more quickly than the corresponding application at the EPO.

The UK applies a similar standard of examination as the EPO, but is less formal in its approach, and as a result, can appear more pro-patentee. The European Patent Office stresses patent quality, including related burden of a granted patent on third parties, and so takes questions of unclear or overly broad claims, added subject matter, and weak inventive step arguments very seriously. While these considerations apply in the UK also, the UK IPO may give more benefit of the doubt to the applicant if a well-reasoned argument is put forward

Combined search and examination is available at the UK IPO and means that for applications filed within 12 months of the priority date, the applicant receives an assessment on patentability before publication. Assuming this is favourable, the examination report can advantageously be used as the basis for a request under the Global Patent Prosecution Highway (GPPH) in other countries. Otherwise, accelerated examination at the UK IPO is possible, providing that a reason can be given, such as knowledge of an infringing act, or an application relating to environmentally friendly subject matter. The GPPH is also available in the UK and can be used to advance cases that have already been found permissible in other jurisdictions. No official fees are required for acceleration. Accelerated examination at the EPO is also available at any time using the EPO Accelerated Prosecution Procedure (PACE) procedure.

While Japanese applicants would not be likely to first file in the UK, the advantages noted above can be obtained by filing a UK application instead of or in addition to a corresponding European Patent application covering the UK. As noted above, assuming that an English translation of the patent application exists already (for filing at the USPTO or the EPO for example) patent protection can be pursued at the UK IPO at relatively low cost.

This can be helpful if licensing or access to the UK courts is desired without delay. Furthermore, it may be possible to direct the UK application to a different embodiment of the invention compared with the claims pursued in the corresponding European application designating the UK, thereby broadening out an applicant's portfolio.

The UK courts (FRAND, doctrine of equivalence, statistics)

Against this backdrop of technological innovation, it is not surprising that the UK courts have developed an international reputation for delivering high-quality decisions on complex matters of technology and law. Recently this has been particularly significant for standard essential patents, where decisions such as Unwired Planet v Huawei have built on the FRAND (fair reasonable and non-discriminatory) provisions set out in European decisions such as Huawei v ZTE and have now shaped the FRAND negotiation procedure used worldwide. Patentees holding a UK patent are in the enviable position of being able to apply to the expertise of the UK courts for various forms of declaratory relief, including injunctions, damages, declarations of infringement or non-infringement, as well as declarations that offers are FRAND offers, and orders to settle the terms of a FRAND licence.

One of the key outcomes of the Unwired Planet v Huawei cases in the UK was the determination that the UK courts are competent to decide a global licensing rate. Huawei as defendant had argued that any FRAND licence should be limited to the UK only, but the UK courts both at first instance and later at the Court of Appeal stage disagreed, arguing that licensing on a country by country basis between a willing licensee and a willing licensor was "madness", and that accordingly the UK court was competent to decide the global rate. This principle has since been separately confirmed in the 2019 Court of Appeal decision Conversant v Huawei, in which the defendants unsuccessfully challenged the jurisdiction of the UK court to hear the case on the ground that ongoing litigation in China made the Chinese courts more appropriate.

The pragmatism of the UK courts has also been clearly evident in their approach to patent litigation, namely their tendency to consider infringement and validity at the same time, relying on what is known as a purposive (rather than literal) approach to claim construction. Recently, and via the Supreme Court decision in Actavis v Eli Lilly, this approach has been extended further by the introduction of a UK doctrine of equivalents. This brings the UK more into line with practice in Europe, and makes the UK more pro-patentee, as it provides an additional scope of protection outside the literal or purposive wording of the claims. In 2018, the Court of Appeal decision Icescape v Ice World decision, applied the doctrine of equivalents to find infringement in mobile ice rink technology. The alleged infringement possessed cooling pipes arranged "in parallel" and the patent claim required them "in series". However, the inventive core of the patent was held to be the flexible pipe coupling used between the connections, such that despite this difference, infringement was found.

There is a view that the UK experiences less patent litigation than some European countries, that the relative value of those cases is typically higher than cases in other countries, and that the UK is sometimes stricter on matters such as patent validity and infringement. This does not, however, accurately reflect reality. The number of patent decisions in the UK (including decisions of the Intellectual Property and Enterprise Court – a streamlined court offering capped damages and reduced costs) can appear to be lower than in other jurisdictions, because the UK does not have a bifurcated system where patent infringement and patent validity hearings are separate and so count as separate decisions. Additionally, and with a view to procedural efficiency, the UK will often bundle related patents with the same parties into a single hearing lasting several days. The UK courts regard this as the best way to balance efficiency with fairness for all parties, hoping to reach decisions that accurately reflect the circumstances of the case. As a result, the number of actual cases may be higher than first appears.

Further, based on recent analysis of the court decisions, the UK courts now uphold more patent claims as valid, and find infringement in around 50% of the cases that they hear. This figure likely reflects the tendency for cases that are clearly in one party's favour to settle before court, meaning that most of the cases that the courts hear are borderline in which neither party has a strong advantage.

One of the advantages that the UK and European systems offer to applicants is flexibility. Different countries offer different approaches to patent prosecution and to patent enforcement. Both the UK and EP (UK) routes to protection may benefit an applicant depending on their circumstances and provide different pros and cons. Whichever route to protection you choose, Reddie & Grose LLP has the expertise to help.


Nick Reeve、Paul Loustalan著








英国政府の最近の産業戦略に関する論文では、グランドチャレンジ と呼ばれる4つの重点分野を定め、資金調達を可能にし、イノベーションを促進することを目指しています。重要なのは、この壮大な計画の中の2つの重点分野が、「未来のモビリティ」と「人工知能とデータ」であることです。


モビリティ分野での研究開発活動は引き続き進んでいます。オックスフォード、シルバーストーン、ケンブリッジに挟まれた地域にある3500社(ほとんどが自動車)のグループであるSilverstone Technology Clusterが最近注目を集めています。世界の上位2校の大学の才能と研究能力を、地元の世界クラスのモータースポーツ企業と結びつけることが約束されているためです。イノベーター同士の協力はテクノロジーの世界クラスの開発につながるため、英国市場と海外の両方で保護される重要な知的財産権の生成は避けられないでしょう。

2番目の課題である人工知能とデータについては、英国には長年にわたる優れた伝統があります。ロンドンとケンブリッジおよびその周辺に拠点を置く英国のハイテクスーパー クラスターは、しばしばヨーロッパの新興テクノロジー企業の最大のグループとしてランク付けされており、英国IPO(英国知的財産局)による最近の論文では、英国の最近のDeepmind、Magic Pony Technology、Swiftkeyなどの新興企業を含む成功事例が強調されています。

Deepmindは2014年にGoogleによって4億ポンドで買収され、2016年にフルサイズのボードでプロの囲碁棋士に勝った最初のコンピュータープログラムであるAlphaGoの開発で知られています。Magic Pony Technologyは、機械学習を使用してビデオおよび画像処理を改善します。2016年にはTwitterによって1億200万ポンドで買収されました。Swiftkeyは予測テキストメッセージにAIを使用します。2016年にMicrosoftによって1億7400万ポンドで買収されました。英国のIPOの論説では、英国はAIに関連する特許出願で、出願された特許出願全体の割合として最も急速に増加している世界の上位3か国にあり、(他は米国とオーストラリア)、AIイノベーションに関する最初の英国特許出願の90%近くが、海外で出願されています(たとえば、米国または中国で最初に出願された申請数よりもはるかに高い割合です)。英国のIPO統計によると、2017年の供与の主要分野は「輸送」、「機器」、「電気」でした。











UKIPOでは調査と審査の統合が可能であり、それは優先日から12か月以内に提出された出願について、出願人は公開前に特許性の評価を受けるということです。これが肯定されると仮定した場合、審査報告書は、他国のグローバル特許審査ハイウェイ(GPPH)の下での要求の基礎として有利に使用することができます。それ以外の場合、侵害行為の認識や環境に優しい対象範囲に関連する出願などの理由を示すことができれば、英国IPOでの早期審査が可能です。GPPHは英国でも利用可能であり、他の管轄区域で既に許可が判明したケースを進めるために使うことができます。早期の手続に公式手数料は必要ありません。 EPOでの早期審査も、PACE手順を使用していつでも利用できます。




技術革新のこのような背景に対して、英国の裁判所が技術と法律の複雑な問題について、高品質の決定を下すことで国際的な評判を確立したことは驚くことではありません。最近、これは標準必須特許にとって特に重要であり、Unwired Planet v Huawei などの決定は、Huawei v ZTE などの欧州の決定で定められたFRAND(公正で合理的かつ非差別的な)条項に基づいており、現在では世界中で使用されているFRAND交渉手順を形作っています。英国の特許を保有する特許権者は、さまざまな形式による宣言的救済を求め、英国の裁判所に見解を問うことができるという恵まれた立場にあり、そこには、差し止め命令、損害賠償、侵害または非侵害の宣言、提供物がFRANDであるという宣言、およびFRANDライセンスの期限を解決する命令などが含まれます。

英国における Unwired Planet v Huawei 事件の重要な結果の1つは、英国裁判所が世界的なライセンス料率を決定することができるという決定でした。被告のHuaweiは、FRANDライセンスは英国のみに限定すべきであると主張していましたが、英国の第一審とその後の控訴裁判所の両方において、誠実なライセンシーと誠実なライセンサーの間で、国ごとのライセンス供与を行うことは「狂気のさた」であるとして認められず、従って英国裁判所は世界的な料率を決定できるとしました。その後、この原則は2019年控訴裁判所の判決であるConversant v Huawei で別途確認されました。そこでは、被告は、中国で進行中の訴訟により中国の裁判所がより適切になったという理由で、この事件を審理するために英国裁判所の管轄権に異議を申し立てましたが、棄却されました。

英国の裁判所の実用主義は、特許訴訟へのアプローチにおいて明白であり、つまり、侵害と有効性を同時に考慮する傾向があり、クレーム解釈は(文字通りではなく)目的的なアプローチに依存しています。最近、Actavis v Eli Lilly での最高裁判所の判決により、このアプローチは、英国均等論の導入によってさらに拡張されました。これにより、英国は欧州での慣行にさらに合致するようになり、クレームの文言的または意図的な表現以外の追加の保護範囲が提供されるため、英国はますます特許権所有者よりの立場になります。2018年、控訴裁判所の決定Icescape v Ice World の判決は、モバイルアイスリンクテクノロジーの侵害を認めるために、均等論を適用しました。申し立てられた侵害では冷却パイプを「並列」に配置しており、特許請求項ではそれらを「直列」に要求していました。しかし、特許の発明の核心は、接続で使用される柔軟なパイプ継手であると考えられたため、この違いにもかかわらず、侵害が認められました。




英国および欧州のシステムが出願人に提供する利点の1つは、柔軟性です。さまざまな国が、特許の出願手続きと特許権の行使に対してさまざまなアプローチをしています。英国と欧州(英国)の両方の保護ルートも、状況に応じて申請者に利益をもたらし、異なる長所と短所があります。どの保護ルートを選択しても、Reddie&Grose LLPは専門知識を活用し、クライアントを支援します。

Nick Reeve

Nick Reeve joined Reddie & Grose in 1999 and was made a partner in 2005. He is a fluent Japanese speaker, and specialises in patents in the software and electronics sector, primarily computer and software implemented inventions, such as those relating to AI and IoT related inventions, electronics and electrical devices, as well as telecommunications and standards related matters. He has particular expertise writing and filing UK and European applications for clients across the world, as well as building client portfolios that suit the commercial needs of his clients. He has extensive experience of European patent oppositions, giving UK pre-litigation advice, performing freedom-to-operate searches, and handling portfolio due diligence and transfer matters.

Nick Reeveは1999年にReddie&Groseに入所し、2005年にパートナーになりました。彼は日本語を流暢に話し、ソフトウェアおよびエレクトロニクス分野の特許、主に、AIやIoT関連の発明、電子装置や電気機器、電気通信や規格関連の問題に関連するものなど、コンピューターやソフトウェアに実装される発明を専門としています。彼は、世界中のクライアント向けに英国および欧州の出願書類を作成および出願する特定の専門知識を持ち、また、クライアントの商業的ニーズに合ったクライアントポートフォリオを構築しています。彼は、欧州特許異議申立について幅広い経験を持ち、英国の訴訟前のアドバイス提供、FTO調査の実行、ポートフォリオのデューデリジェンスと譲渡問題の処理を行ってきました。

Paul Loustalan

Paul Loustalan has been a qualified UK and European patent attorney for over ten years, and is a partner at Reddie & Grose LLP based in London. Paul has a background in mechanical engineering, and his PhD research was in the area of fuel injectors for IC engines. As a patent attorney, Paul's day-to-day practice includes drafting, filing and prosecuting patent applications in the field of advanced engineering, and in particular the automotive sector such as electric and hybrid-electric vehicles and associated technologies such as control and autonomous driving systems. As well as successfully obtaining granted patents for his clients, Paul also works closely with them to build a commercially relevant and robust IP strategy and portfolio.

Paul Loustalanは、英国および欧州の弁理士として10年以上のキャリアがあり、ロンドンに拠点を置くReddie&Grose LLPのパートナーです。 Paulは機械工学のバックグラウンドを持ち、博士号の研究はICエンジンの燃料噴射器の分野でした。 弁理士として、Paulの日々の業務には、高度なエンジニアリングの分野、特に電気自動車やハイブリッド電気自動車などの自動車セクター、および制御や自動運転システムなどの関連技術の分野での特許出願書の起草、出願、出願手続きが含まれます。Paulは、クライアントのために特許を取得するだけでなく、彼らと密接に連携して、商業的に関連性のある堅牢な知財戦略とポートフォリオを構築します。


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