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The UK Patent Office has proposed a new set of rules (PDF) which it says will modernise its processes. The rules are open for consultation until June.

The Patents Rules are the procedural and administrative guidelines to the working of the Patent Office, and the current set of rules was published in 1995.

"We suggest that it is time for a substantial modernisation of the 1995 Rules," said the Patent Office in its new proposal. "The most significant proposal is a completely new approach to the rules on litigation at the Patent Office, with a set of generic rules of procedure which better reflect current litigation practice.

"Other proposals concern the removal of some fee-bearing forms, introduction of a Welsh language scheme, updating of some formal requirements (in particular to set out requirements in respect of sequence listings), and updating of provisions generally to reflect modern working practices – such as the availability of documents over the internet and the electronic filing of patent applications."

One of the main changes is in relation to the rules for litigation. "At present, every type of dispute has its own collection of rules, which means that the structure of the Patents Rules is unnecessarily complex," the office's consultation document said.

"Furthermore, many of the specific rules on litigation are very repetitious, with similar procedural points being repeated for each of the disputes which can arise. As a result these rules occupy a disproportionate amount of space in the Rules as a whole.

"Most importantly, there is a significant range of matters on which the existing rules are largely silent, including the case management powers which the office is increasingly exercising in order to simplify and accelerate proceedings and reduce their cost to customers. Thus we propose to replace all these rules with a single, common set of rules that apply, so far as possible, to all types of dispute."

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