New Clause 1 - Compulsory binding technical arbitration for new and existing patents

Part of Patents Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:00 pm on 15th June 2004.

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Photo of Malcolm Bruce Malcolm Bruce Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, Shadow Secretary of State for Trade and Industry 3:00 pm, 15th June 2004

As I understand it, the system would be a bit like a peer group assessment. Basically, if the patent in question is a pharmaceutical patent, one gets independent pharmaceutical experts. If it is a software patent, one gets independent software experts. The argument is that experts with an objective view and expert knowledge would be more informed. The problem for a judge is that very often the information will be completely outside his area of experience or beyond his competence to evaluate. That is no criticism of the judges. After all, what they are evaluating is the intellectual property in a patent. Only people who have a concept and understanding of the particular intellectual property arguments in dispute can really do that. The counter-question to the Minister is this: if one does not bring in that expertise, how on earth can the matter be resolved fairly and objectively?

Of course, the proposal is that the procedures be compulsory. That would force the parties to communicate and even up the balance between big and small companies. That could lead to more out-of-court settlements, which the Government are keen to have. That would be in everybody's interests and would reduce the costs of enforcing the law.