Adrian Sewell founded Tandem Patents in 2016, to help specialist engineering and design companies through the patent process. A dual qualified patent attorney and chartered mechanical engineer with a passion for innovative design, Adrian established Tandem to give his clients a personal and practical service that larger firms can’t always afford.
Here, he tells MCS Corporate Strategies how business are missing out on the opportunities of IP – and shares his expert insight on the process.
Do you think businesses are missing out on Patent Box opportunities?
Similar to the way that R&D tax credits have taken around 10 years to gather momentum, innovative UK companies aren’t getting the full benefit of Patent Box. This is partly due to a lack of awareness, but also because many companies wrongly believe they are not ‘innovative’ and therefore not eligible.
Both government schemes have been implanted for good reason; to encourage R&D and innovation in the UK. The benefits available are, effectively, a reward from the government for helping to advance technology in this country; this ethos is similar to that of a patent, which rewards the patent owner the right to exploit their invention for a maximum of 20 years in return for disclosing their invention to the public. Many UK engineering and manufacturing companies are equally unaware that they are creating valuable intellectual property (IP) on a daily basis, and may find it particularly useful in contacting an engineering patent attorney to assess their potential for IP protection and tax benefits.
What should businesses consider when venturing in to the IP process?
All individuals and employees/directors of innovative companies should be well aware of what IP they are creating and when to flag a new invention or design to their patent attorney. They can then advise on whether or not such IP can be protected. This should be done as early as possible in the development process: public disclosure of a new invention, for example, can affect the chances of a patent being granted.
It’s also important to consider the various reasons and strategies for filing a new patent application. Is it to prevent/deter a competitor copying your products/systems, to add value to the company, and/or to potentially reduce the amount of corporation tax the company is currently paying via the governmental Patent Box regime?
Companies should also consider the costs and timescales involved in relation to the patent application process, and the other forms of IP protection that are available.
How do you think Brexit will affect the patent process, and the availability of patent schemes in the UK?
The UK will remain a member of the European Patent Convention (EPC) when it leaves the EU. This is because the EPC is not EU legislation and the European Patent Office (EPO) is not an EU institution. As such, examination, grant and validation of European patents designating the UK will continue under the current system.
What is less clear is how Brexit will affect the proposed Unified Patent System. Currently, twelve EU countries have ratified the Unified Patent Court (UPC) agreement, though ratification by both the UK and Germany is still required for the Unitary Patent System to commence. Ratification by the UK and Germany could take place in April or May, which would pave the way for the UPC and Unitary Patent System to come into effect before the end of 2017.
However, now that the Brexit process has been triggered, this could delay ratification by Germany. Furthermore, unlike a patent granted by the EPO that is effective in the UK now – and which will continue to be effective post Brexit – a Unitary Patent would not cover the UK, although UK applicants would still be able to apply for one. From the European perspective, the whole project loses some of its appeal if the UK is not covered. However, the underlying message is currently ‘business as usual’.
To find out more about how MS Corporate Strategies work with experts like Adrian to deliver the best patent and R&D options to our clients, call us on 01926 512 475.