IPO announces two-year timeline for online patent service and digital hearings

Written by Sam Trendall on 23 May 2023 in News

Government agency publishes update on transformation plan

Credit: Jukka Niittymaa/Pixabay

The Intellectual Property Office has announced a two-year timeline for digital transformation, including a new service to apply for patents online and the launch of remote hearings.

In a newly published report, the government agency reveals that a digital service allowing users to search for registered patents will launch in September. At the same time, a pilot phase will begin for a new online tool for registering patents – a service which is due to go fully live in spring 2024, and replace the existing Electronic Online Filing tool.

By the end of 2025, the IPO intends to launch a digital platform for trademarks and designs, as well as a “digital hearings and tribunals service”.

The new service for registering patents will require users to separately upload different elements of their application – including descriptions, drawings, and details of their claim. But the IPO indicated that benefits of the updated systems will include the ability for users to submit machine-readable drawings, as well as “better collaboration between IPO and attorneys through tracked changes and comments on documents [and] faster IP examinations though more efficient processing”.

As part of the introduction of the new suite of services – under the banner of the One IPO Transformation Programme – the agency aims to make it easier for various individual users across an organisation to access the IPO’s services.

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“Everyone in the organisation can have their own IPO account, but super admins will be able to restrict access to certain applications or client information where necessary,” the report said. “This will allow the organisation to establish ethical walls to avoid conflicts of interest.”

The One IPO tools will also introduce APIs that will allow users to “link your IP software to our new systems”. 

“To begin with we’ll be working on APIs that will allow you to view your IP, get details of your applications and request renewals straight from your IP software,” the report said. “We won’t be stopping there though, and we’ll continue to roll out new features for our APIs in the future. If you want your IP software supplier or IT team to be involved in the development of the APIs”.

To support the transformed citizen services, the IPO – which operates as an executive agency of the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology – will also adapt its internal systems and processed to “to support a more digital way of working”.

“Our new structure will make it easier for us to improve and iterate on our services in the years ahead,” the agency said. “This will mean we’ll be able to quickly adapt to new innovations, changes and demands from our customers.”

Those users that cannot access digital platforms or prefer to use manual applications are advised that paper forms “will also be changing… to mirror the new digital service”.

“You will still be able to apply via paper if you want to, but some of the existing forms may merge or change significantly,” the IPO said. “Ahead of the launch of the new service, we will produce guidance outlining all of the changes to paper forms.”

During the 12-month period that followed the first national lockdown, imposed in March 2020, the IPO saw a backlog of casework – that been gradually increasing for 15 years – swell to a queue of 32,185 trademark applications and 9,507 design applications awaiting processing.

By June of last year, the agency announced that it had fully cleared this backlog, for the first time in a decade and a half. The IPO claimed at the time that the ongoing rollout of new digital services would help avoid similar build-ups in the future.

In a foreword to the latest progress update, the office’s chief executive Adam Williams said: “2023 is the year that transformation becomes real as we deliver our first patent module. Now is the time to look at the changes that are coming, understand how they will affect your organisation and work with us to smoothly transition to the new service. It’s an exciting time, and we can’t wait for our customers to start benefiting from the new One IPO service, as we deliver on our promise of providing brilliant digital services.”


About the author

Sam Trendall is editor of PublicTechnology. He can be reached on sam.trendall@publictechnology.net.

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