UK IPO Introduces One IPO

Author: Harry O'Brien
IP News

In 2021, the UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO) began a transformation programme to update its system and services. Through these transformations, the IPO intends to create a user-focussed and world-leading system for all UK IP rights. The new system and services are intended to move away from the paper-based style of working, which has been used until now, to a single digital system.

The new system is called “One IPO” and will include the following services:

• Manage IP – new IPO user accounts to view, manage and track all IP transactions.
• Secure IP – a new digital IP applications service that will allow users to secure IP more quickly and efficiently.
• Research IP – a new IP search service that will make finding information about UK IP easier and more powerful.
• Challenge IP – a new digital service for IP hearings and tribunals.

This year, we will see the first fruits of their labour as new patents services and pilot programmes are rolled out before a full launch for all IPO users.

In September 2023, the new search service will launch, replacing the current patent searching service Ipsum. The new service will give users more options on how to search for patents, including keywords, owner(s) of the IP right, date of registration, and the status of the IP right. New data will be also available, including the IPO’s full library of Supplementary Protection Certificates (SPCs). Users also will be able to save searches, monitor patents and build their own “patent journal”. Trade marks and designs will be added to the search service in 2025, creating one place to search all registered UK IP.

In addition, the Patents Pilot will be launched, giving a small group of patents users early access to the One IPO system. This pilot programme is intended to assist users to set up their IPO account to test and refine the system before launch. The pilot programme is expected to run for six months from September 2023 to April 2024 and users will include participants from small to large private practice firms, in-house attorneys and private applicants.

In Spring 2024, the new One IPO system will launch for all patents users, including the Manage IP and Secure IP services to manage and track all patents, and draft and submit new applications. The first APIs (application programming interfaces) will also become available, which will allow providers of IP software to link their products directly to the IPO’s new systems. APIs will allow users to view their IP, get details of applications and request renewals, with new features to be rolled out in the future.

A trade marks and designs pilot will run in Spring/Summer of 2025, before the full launch of these services in Autumn/Winter 2025. The new digital hearings and tribunals service will also launch at this time.

There are some notable changes that will occur with the introduction of One IPO. In particular, the EPO’s Electronic Online Filing (eOLF) service for filing new PCT (international) applications at the UK IPO will no longer be used from Spring 2024. eOLF will still be available for ongoing PCT applications and new GB patent applications for a further three months, before eOLF is disabled for all UK IPO filings in summer 2024. All new GB patent filings will then have to be made through One IPO.

There will also be changes in One IPO regarding how patent applications are to be filed. Each part of a patent specification (description, claims and drawings) will need to be uploaded as separate documents in DocX or ODT format, although it will be possible to upload drawings in machine-readable PDF format. The IPO commented that it has always examined parts of patent specifications separately, so this change increases efficiency and accuracy for the IPO, which often has to divide up new applications. Furthermore, as the required document formats are machine-readable, the IPO hopes that the examination process will become more efficient.

Options to restrict access to certain applications or client information will be available, allowing organisations to establish ethical walls to avoid conflicts of interest.

Finally, many users will be happy to hear that deposit accounts will be built into One IPO. However, the IPO has indicated that over the long term it plans to move away from deposit accounts to an alternative digital payment service.

Overall, these are welcome changes to the services offered by the UK IPO, benefitting all users who wish to obtain, search and litigate IP in the UK.

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