This time last month I noted the appointment of Andrew Gowers to review the UK’s intellectual property framework and to report to the Chancellor of the Exchequer by the Autumn ("Gordon Bennett (or should that read "Brown"?) - Gowers Review of Intellectual Property"). Hard that it may be to believe, there is an advanced country in the EC that does even worse than the UK in the European patent application stakes. That country is, of course, Italy which managed 3,998 European patent applications in 2004 compared to the UK's 4,791 (see EPO Statistics for 2004).
Signor Bruno's opposite number in Italy also appears to have had a think and his solution is to abolish Patent Office fees for Italian design, utility model and patent applications (see s.351 and s.352 of the Italian Finance Act 2006). Now this decision has caused quite a flutter. I first learned of it earlier this week from my good friend Linda Oakley (see "La Dolce Vita for patents and Designs") and I actually took notice of it when I saw it on the IPR Helpdesk. It would certain please Mr James Dyson who has twice complained that renewal fees infringe his rights under the European Convention of Human Rights (see bio on the Dyson website).
However, I have to say that I am not persuaded that getting rid of renewal fees would be a good thing. It would remove the incentive for licences of right under s.46 (3) (d) of the Patents Act 1977 which encourages some good patents to be worked and would remove the incentive for patentees to abandon bad ones altogether. Also, as the EPO research showed, patent office fees are only a fraction of the total cost. Professional fees, translations etc cost far more.
Nevertheless, it will be interesting to see whether Italy moves up the applications league or whether it will continue to languish behind the Netherlands, Switzerland and the UK.