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Brits pull the rug from under patent lawyers

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The UK Patent Office has given its first verdicts on the fast track opinion service it launched last year to save modest patent holders being bullied by more powerful corporate inventors in disputes.

Say, for example, you have invented (with the humble resources at hand in your garden shed) a propeller-powered levitation device that carries out its functions through a mount placed on a baseball hat, and proudly registered a patent.

Any Silicon Valley ruffian who fancies your invention for his corporation could intimidate you with a confusing imitation of your own patent and a lorry-load of lawyers.

If, however, you slipped the UK patent office two hundred quid, they would look into it for you and let you know whether you've stepped on someone's toes or some tyrant is trying it on.

Of course, it is more likely to be the case of mere misunderstanding or disagreement over the true meaning that should be derived from the arcane language used by lawyers and patent officers, as was the likely case in the three opinions the patent office has just delivered.

Patent Office examiner John Rowlatt deftly disarmed a running patent dispute with the observation that Mr Jeremy David Lenighan's patent for a shower screen that attaches to a bath will only be infringed by Heritage Bathroom's Showerbath screen if, like his own invention, it is prevented from swinging out over the bath by the sealing strip.

In another case, Danish patent holder Novo Nordisk A/S sought to discover whether its patent for cartidge syringes was novel and inventive compared to a host of other similarly registered patents in the US and Europe.

After a lengthy exposition on the matter, Rebecca Villis, Patent Office examiner, concluded that just two of 20 claims made by Novo Nordisk about its syringe patent were trite. This would likely give the firm every confidence in defending its inventor's dignity against any chancers who might steal its thunder.

Finally, Mr Alan John Mackinder, who was concerned that his patent for spotting speeding cars using a satellite and grassing the misdemeanour to the fuzz, was infringed by Blackspot Interactive's Road Angel Navigator.

The Patent Office's Eamonn Quirk examined the case and formed the opinion that Mr Mackinder had no claim for infringement, probably saving him a lot of wasted time and money fighting the claim in court. ®

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