Annual Technical Report 2004 on Patent Information Activities submitted by United Kingdom (SCIT/ATR/PI/2004/GB)


Where URLs are requested below, it is preferred that either URLs which are likely to remain stable over time (three years or more) are provided, or home (main) page URLs are provided with a short explanation of how to access the corresponding information.

The term "patent" covers utility models and Supplementary Protection Certificates (SPCs). Offices which issue design patents should report their design patent information activities in their Annual Technical Reports on Industrial Design Information Activities.


I. Evolution of patent activities

Changes experienced in terms of application filings and grants with respect to the previous year

Applications for national UK patents went down from 29,835 in 2003 to 28,223 in 2004 (-5.7 %). In 2004, and in its capacity as a receiving office, the UKPO handled 8,093 applications for European patents. Applications from UK residents fell from 20,064 to 18,816 (-6.6 %). Patents granted increased from 9,761 to 10,541 from 2003 to 2004 (+8.0 %).

Trends or areas experiencing rapid changes with respect to the previous year

[The surge in applications for patents relating to electronic commerce activities which resulted from the dot com boom means we are now refusing an increasing number of applications because methods for doing business as such are not patentable under the law.

Small organic compounds continue to dominate in the field of pharmaceutical patents where the prime targets are still cancer, heart disease, Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)/Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) and anti-inflammatory therapies. However, activity has been influenced by world events such as the emergence of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and the threat of anthrax poisoning. In the related field of biotechnology there has been a notable drop in applications for per se gene inventions. This may be a consequence of the Office's published Examination Guidelines for Biotechnological Inventions which gives applicants a greater understanding of the current requirements for industrial applicability and inventive step for such inventions. On the increase is the number of applications based on gene silencing and Ribonucleic Acid interference (RNAi) technology.]
This is the same entry as that for 2003. The corresponding statement for 2004 is not yet available.

II. Matters concerning the generation, reproduction, distribution and use of primary and secondary sources of patent information

Publishing, printing, copying (main types of publications of the office in the field of patent information, etc.)

(1) Paper


These are prepared by an outside printer. The front page is compiled by downloading bibliographic data (ASCII with special characters) from the corporate database OPTICS to the Internet for collection by the external printer. The data is composed using XICS (Xerox Integrated Composition System), a bespoke system of Xerox. The abstract text, typed or scanned, is added, and any abstract drawings are scanned and merged to finalise the front page. The finished page is added to the rest of the specification and reproduced. The finished documents are then scanned onto CD on a weekly basis for the EPO (WIPO Standard ST.33). The publishing cycle is 5 weeks.


These are prepared by an outside printer. The front page is compiled by downloading bibliographic data (ASCII with special characters) from the corporate database OPTICS to the Internet for collection by the external printer. The data is composed using XICS (Xerox Integrated Composition System), a bespoke system of Xerox. The finished page is added to the rest of the specification and reproduced. The finished documents are then scanned onto CD on a weekly basis for the EPO (WIPO Standard ST.33). The publishing cycle is 5 weeks.

(2) CD-ROM

In association with the EPO, we publish GB A-documents on CD-ROM on a fortnightly basis, ESPACE-UK. The CD-Rom collection covers the years 1979 to date, i.e. for GB serial numbers in excess of 2,000,000.

In conjunction with the EPO and the IP Offices of Belgium, Switzerland, Holland, Luxembourg and Portugal, an ACCESS-EUROPE CD-ROM containing the bibliographic data of published BE, CH, LU, NL and UK applications is produced on a monthly basis.
[N.B. This product changed to ESPACE ACCESS EPC in January 2005 and now covers all Member States data.]

(3) Patents and Designs Journal

Official notices and selected bibliographic data relating to UK patent applications and granted patents are published in the official weekly electronic newspaper called the Patents and Designs Journal on the date of publication. The Journal appears on the Patent Office website in PDF format, at


The full text, drawings and bibliographic data of all published UK patent applications and granted patents is published on the EPOQUE system soon after the domestic publication date. Esp@cenet is a free internet service which contains a number of different patent collections including all GB applications published since 1978 (

Main types of announcements of the Office in the field of patent information

The Patent Office website ( plays an increasingly important part in the dissemination of notices regarding patents and other IPR. In particular we frequently hold consultations with our community of users. However we continue to place such announcements in our Journal of Patents and Designs, which is available without charge on our website. The Patent Office website received over 66 million hits in 2004.

Mass storage media used (paper, microforms, optical storage, etc.)

The office has a DVD and CD-ROM collection containing published/granted US, WO, EP and GB documents on CIMS (Consolidated Imaging System), which can produce paper copies of documents for use in the office.

The office has a classified paper collection of GB documents, with some WO and EP documents classified on the UK Key between certain dates. However this collection has been frozen and is in the process of being disposed of, in favour of online retrieval using EPOQUE.

Word processing and office automation

The Patent Office uses Microsoft Windows NT4 which provides an integrated and extensive network of applications that are available to all staff. All staff have their own personal workstation on which numerous applications are available. Word processing can be carried out using Word Perfect 8 or Word XP; Powerpoint and Excel are also available; all classification keys used by the examining staff (UK Key, ECLA, ICO, IPC, USPC and Japanese F- and FI-Terms) are accessible, as are office notices, manuals, search tools including access to online databases, internal and external telephone directories, translation software, management and administration information etc. There is also a corporate mainframe database (OPTICS), a Paradox database (PAFS) for recording file movement data and examining group statistics, and automated production of search and examination reports using the PROSE system. The office intranet contains a very large collection of essential information for staff, including search and classification tools.

Copies of US, EP, WO and GB documents cited in the search reports are produced by the in-house centralised printing system (CIMS) for supply to applicants, and in addition this system has been extended to enable the ad hoc ordering by staff of any types of patent documentation from CIMS, direct from their desktop. All staff have access to the Internet and to the office intranet and have their own e-mail (via Groupwise 5.5) and official e-mail address.

(New) techniques used for the generation of patent information (printing, recording, photocomposing, etc.)

See Publishing, printing, copying etc.

III. Matters concerning abstracting, classifying, reclassifying and indexing of technical information contained in patent documents

Abstracting, reviewing, translating

Our staff can translate any document to or from English, French or German (and possibly Japanese and/or Russian) using translation software that is available at the desktop. Patent examiners check all patent abstracts provided by the applicant, and amend them when necessary to ensure that the abstract printed on the front page represents a useful search tool.

Classification and reclassification activities; Classification system used, e.g., International Patent Classification (IPC), other classification (please indicate whether or not patent documents are classified by your Office and, if so, which classification is used)

The office classifies UK patent applications on the UK Classification Key (Edition W in 2004) and the IPC (7th Edition). The office does not reclassify documents except as a result of a UK Key change.

On 1 January 2004, Edition W of the UK Key came into force. Certain amended parts of the Key were republished and these republished parts together with the unamended parts of Edition V collectively constitute Edition W. Key changes for Edition W have been effected in the following headings:

Heading Detail
B1X Addition of classifying term
B5N Printing error correction - page 10
C4P Addition of new classifying term to reduce deep indexing.
E1D Addition of new classifying terms
E2F Printing error corrections - page 4.
G1H Addition of references out to headings B8T and F2V
H2E Further detail classification
H2J Printing error correction - Page 2
H3A Printing error correction - Page 3
H3T Addition of clarifying notes and deletion of classifying terms overlapping with heading H3P
H4K Addition of new classification marks
H4L Further detail classification; Clarifying amendments.

Coordinate indexing (domestic deep indexing systems, keyword indexing)

Some UK Key headings have deep indexing schemes, with terms that are electronically searchable on OPTICS.

Hybrid system indexing

Double-purpose indexing, currently a feature of the IPC, is searchable in the usual forms in which the IPC is searched. Such schemes do not exist in the UK Key.

Bibliographic data and full-text processing for search purposes

Bibliographic data, abstracts (checked by examiners) and full specifications of GB documents are uploaded via CDs and tapes to EPO databases such as EPODOC on a weekly basis. This information can be searched there.

IV. Search file establishment and upkeep

File building

File building and updating of our paper search files classified under the UK Key is centralised. Our UK Key paper search files contain GB A-documents to date, pre-1978 Old Act GB documents, a collection of Irish documents and some other documents as requested by the examiner in charge of a particular heading. These search files also contain frozen collections of US, EP and WO documents within certain date ranges that vary for the headings concerned.
In 2004 we started a process of disposing of some of our paper search files to save space, in view of the widespread use of online searching in respect of our UK patents collection.

Whenever a document is published and is not in a part of our collection that is being disposed of, a spare copy of the document from the printer is sent to the examining group, optionally placed on a search card as required, and then placed in the right box file for the correct UK Key heading(s) and mark(s) that have been applied to the document. These box files are arranged for easy searching.

Our collection of ECLA files (containing US, EP and WO documents classified according to the ECLA key) was frozen some time ago, and virtually all of this formerly very large collection has now been disposed of.

Most of the UK search files are available electronically on our OPTICS database.


See File building above. Upkeep of search files is carried out centrally by administrative staff, in a process that includes listing (comparing the search file contents with the OPTICS record of what should be on that file).

Storage, including mass storage media

See File building above and Mass storage media used above.

Documentation from other offices maintained and/or considered part of the available search file

See File building above. Patent collections from the rest of the world and that are not in our collection are available by online search techniques.

V. Activities in the field of computerized and other mechanized search systems

In-house systems (online/offline)

The OPTICS (Office of Patent and Trademarks Integrated Computer System) database is the only in-house system we have for searching. See Equipment used below. Technical searching can be carried out on single UK Key classifying or indexing terms, combinations of terms from the same or different headings, etc. IPC terms can be searched too, as can register, legal status and other parameters.

External databases

We have a list of over 40 external databases that we use regularly, including EPODOC, WPI, JAPIO, CAS ONLINE and other specialised chemical, biotech, electrical and other databases. We interrogate these databases using a number of online hosts that the office subscribe to, including EPOQUE, STN, DIALOG and others. Our official policy is that a worldwide online search should be carried out as whole or part of every patent search done in this office.

Administrative management systems (e.g., register, legal status, statistics, administrative support, etc.)

Register and legal status information is stored on the OPTICS database, as are a number of types of statistics such as file sizes for UK Key marks. Examining group statistics, file movements etc. are recorded using a Paradox system called PAFS (see Word processing and office automation above).

Equipment used (hardware, including the types of terminal and network used, and software), carriers used

Our corporate database (OPTICS) runs on an ICL mainframe located at the Logica Data Centre at Bridgend, South Wales. The internal network uses a client-server arrangement on an Ethernet LAN running Novell Netware. The SAGE platform used by the Patents Directorate uses 3 PC database servers, for Paradox applications, the directorate e-mail Post Office and for providing various other applications such as Windows, OPTICS, EPOQUE etc. Client PCs are used by all staff as are Pentium machines with a mixture of 15", 17" and 21" screens, which are mostly CRT but with an increasing number of new LCD space-saving screens.

Existing online thesauri; their structure, presentation and usefulness for computerized searches

We use some EPO tools such as EPOS for finding out synonyms for helping with keyword searches, and a number of other EPO and in-house preparations. The UK Key Catchwords Index and the IPC Catchword Index are available on examiners desktops and on paper, and a scientific dictionary called Routledge is also available on desktops. All these tools are used regularly.

VI. Administration of the industrial property office library and services available to the public (relating to facilities, e.g., for lodging applications, for assisting clients on searching procedures, for obtaining official publications and registry extracts)

Planning, administration, automation, security, buildings

Our internal library is in our Newport office and is run by the Documentation Unit. The available collections include GB abridgements/abstracts (including Bennet-Woodcroft), copies of the UK Key, IPC and ECLA, various pamphlets, manuals and other publications, some law reports, name and subject-matter indexes for locating old historic patents, official journals of the UK (Patent and Designs Journal) and of the EPO, magazines for circulations etc. Much of this information is also available on the office Intranet. The collections are located in our main building and are therefore secure.

We have a Front Office in London which is primarily used to help in lodging patent applications. There are facilities for the public, both in that office and in our main Newport office in Wales, where official publications can be obtained and where searching e.g. on the Internet can be carried out.

Collecting, acquisitions, preparation

All staff are free to suggest additional material for inclusion in our library collection, and suggestions are periodically invited by management.

Collection management, preservation

The Documentation Unit is charged with the task of maintaining our library.

Interlibrary lending, resource sharing, networks of patent libraries in the country

The Science Information and Research Service (SIRS) of the British Library, located in St. Pancras, London, houses the national collection of patents, science and technology. It remains administratively separate from the UK Patent Office, and is funded by the UK Government Department of Culture, Media and Sport and by revenue from its services which are heavily used.

SIRS has telephone access to selected examiners in the Patent Office, to help with public enquiries on patent searching.

SIRS and the Patent Office jointly offer support to the PATLIB patent libraries, which consist of SIRS and 14 libraries outside London, open to the public, which hold patent material. The PATLIB libraries collect most patent specifications in CD-ROM format rather than in paper or microform, although some continue to arrive on paper. Over 25 countries patents are covered.

SIRS also continues to offer public access to commercial patent online databases through its Patents Online search service. This is a priced service which handles a number of commissioned searches monthly, mostly for subject searches.

The Patent Office takes part in numerous exchange and grant programmes with other patent offices around the world as in previous years. IP documentation received by the Patent Office is not held by us but by the British Library which provides a national resource for users of this information.

Information services available to the public (including computerized services and search files contained in libraries remote from your Office and patent information posted by your Office on the World Wide Web)

The Patent Office's Search and Advisory Service continues to promote its activities in providing priced non-statutory patent and trade mark investigations. In all, 7370 patent and trade mark-based searches were processed, an increase of about 4.5 % over the previous 12 months. This is a result of considerable growth in trade mark requests and UK award schemes for smaller technologically-oriented companies, such as the Smart scheme which aims to enhance competitiveness by encouraging innovation. The Service is also looking to build on its provision of commercial patentability and infringement searches.

The Patent Office's call centre (Central Enquiry Unit) continues to provide a much needed service to customers, with more than 100,000 telephone calls and emails coming in during 2004. Customer satisfaction is very high.

See Interlibrary lending for details of library services remote from our office.

VII. Matters concerning mutual exchange of patent documentation and information

International or regional cooperation in the exchange of machine-readable information, e.g., bibliographic data, abstract and/or full text information

We apply all relevant WIPO standards including ST.8 for machine-readable records.

Medium used for exchange of priority documents

Paper. We can accept priority documents in CD form provided they have the appropriate electronic signature.

Medium allowed for filing applications

Filing is mainly on paper, but e-filing of GB, EP and PCT applications at the UKPO started in August 2004.

Implementation of the Statement of Principles Concerning the Changeover to Electronic Data Carriers for the Exchange of Patent Documents (please provide a status report on the extent to which your Office has changed over to electronic data carriers for the exchange of patent documents)

We send copies of GB A- and B-specifications electronically to the EPO weekly.

VIII. Other relevant matters concerning education and training in, and promotion of, the use of patent information, including technical assistance to developing countries

Training courses for national and foreign participants, use of audiovisual means

Nothing new since the 2003 report.

Assistance to developing countries (sending consultants and experts, receiving trainees from developing countries, etc.)

The UK Patent Office has an active programme of bilateral and other cooperation with various countries, including a number of developing countries. In 2003, the Search and Advisory Service carried out 11 free patent searches for WIPO under the programme of Patent Information Services for Developing Countries. We also deliver seminars and lectures in various places including developing countries.

Promotional activities (seminars, exhibitions, visits, advertising, etc.)

As in past years, the Awareness, Information and Media Division of the Patent Office has continued to have a presence at many exhibitions, to give seminars, and to host visits to the Office. In order to get the widest possible coverage in the media, the Patent Office employs a PR company whose role it is to develop newsworthy stories about a wide range of intellectual property issues and to effectively communicate them to the media, as well as having a more general liaison role with the media.

Studies to identify trends in new technology, e.g., by the use of patent statistics, preparation of monographs, etc.

See Evolution of patent activities above.

Assistance furnished by offices to facilitate the changing over of receiving offices to electronic data carriers for the exchange of patent documents (see also sub-item 4 of item VI, above)

Nothing new since the 2003 report.

IX. Other relevant matters

Nothing new since the 2003 report.


1.Classification is allotting one or more classification symbols (e.g., IPC symbols) to a patent application, either before or during search and examination, which symbols are then published with the patent application.


2.Preclassification is allotting an initial broad classification symbol (e.g., IPC class or subclass, or administrative unit) to a patent application, using human or automated means for internal administrative purposes (e.g., routing an application to the appropriate examiner).  Usually preclassification is applied by the administration of an office.


3.Reclassification is the reconsideration and usually the replacement of one or more previously allotted classification symbols to a patent document, following a revision and the entry into force of a new version of the Classification system (e.g., the IPC).  The new symbols are available on patent databases.