How to manage your patents

Resolving patent disputes


Patent disputes are not uncommon. The majority of disputes fall under one of two categories: those between competitors in a market and those raised by a third party in an attempt to monetise a patent portfolio. Disputes involving licensing agreements are also relatively common.

Most experts agree that litigation should be your last resort in resolving patent disputes. Litigation can result in significant business disruption and expense, so it's worth exploring all possible alternatives before going to court.

Resolving patent disputes - alternatives to court

Typically, there are two types of disputes that you might find yourself in. You may find yourself disagreeing:

  • with the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) about an objection raised against your patent application or patent
  • with a third party, eg involving patent infringement or ownership

In either case, the IPO offers several ways to help you resolve your dispute.

IPO's patent dispute resolutions hearings

The IPO's patent hearing officers can independently look at both sides of the argument and assist you through:

  • an ex parte hearing - to resolve a dispute between you and the office
  • an inter parte hearing - to resolve a dispute between you and someone else

Read more about the IPO's patent dispute hearings.

IPO's patent opinions

If you are involved in a dispute with someone else about infringement or the validity of an existing patent, and you wish to avoid litigation, you can ask the IPO for an opinion.

The procedure involves an impartial assessment of the main issues in contention and offers a quick and relatively low cost way of potentially resolving the dispute. Find out more about IPO's opinion service in post-grant opposition of patents.

IPO's mediation

Mediation is a type of alternative dispute resolution. It is a way of addressing issues without going to court, by talking to the opposing party with the help of an independent mediator.

The IPO offers a mediation service and can mediate in your dispute face-to-face or over the telephone. The service can help you resolve disputes about:

  • infringement of patents
  • patent licensing
  • patent entitlement, eg determine if a co-inventor was employee or consultant

Find out more about the IPO's mediation service.

Proving that you own a patent

If you find yourself in a dispute and you need to prove that you own a patent, you can request a certified copy of your patent document from the IPO. You will have to fill in a form and pay the fee of £20 for each certified copy you need.

You may also need a certified copy as evidence in a court of law - eg if you are involved in legal action to enforce or defend your patent rights. See how to request a certified patent copy.

If you are unable to resolve your patent dispute by alternative means and you need to go ahead with litigation, you should seek professional or legal assistance. Find a patent attorney near you.