UK patent legislation does not permit the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) to apply different criteria to applications for patents according to the size of company involved. However, its patent granting processes are certified to the international quality standard ISO 9001:2008, and the IPO does try to tailor how it delivers its services to meet the needs of its customers, including small and medium enterprises (SMEs). For example, unrepresented applicants are given special help and advice in progressing their applications.
Recognising the special difficulties faced by SMEs, the IPO has recently published a document, From Ideas to Growth: Helping SMEs Get Value from their Intellectual Property, setting out its proposals for providing SMEs with better support and improved access to intellectual property advice. This is available at http://www.ipo.gov.uk/business-sme.pdf.
The Government also actively encourage alternative dispute resolution as a low cost way of resolving patent disputes, such as through the IPO's mediation and patents opinion services. The Government have introduced reforms to the Patents County Court, such as a fixed scale of recoverable costs capped at £50,000, to make it easier and cheaper for SMEs to defend their intellectual property rights, including patents, when court action is necessary.