Trans-Pacific trade deal

and FTAs

We fully support the UK government’s global trade ambitions and welcome trade agreements that strengthen the UK’s position as a world leader in innovation and intellectual property.

Throughout 2022 the government continued to negotiate accession to the £9trillion Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) – a free trade agreement among Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam.

We were concerned that certain intellectual property provisions of the CPTPP could be inconsistent with those of the European Patent Convention (EPC), particularly those relating to a grace period. (A grace period is a period of time prior to the filing or priority date of a patent application, during which an inventor can disclose his invention without this destroying the novelty of his invention for patenting purposes.)

We discussed our concerns with Ministers and senior civil servants throughout the year, demonstrating the importance of the EPC not just to the UK patent profession, but to the wider economy and our international allies. Our aim was to influence the negotiations to ensure there was no uncertainty in relation to the UK’s commitment to the EPC and it became clear that our message had been heard.

This subject was raised twice on the same day in January, in Parliament. The government’s commitment to remaining in the EPC was expressed in robust language in its response to the House of Lords’ International Agreements Committee report on the UK’s accession to the CPTPP:

It stated: “We have heard very clear feedback from stakeholders that the UK’s alignment with the European Patent Convention (EPC) is vital to both applicants and the patent attorney profession. We also believe that there are clear benefits for CPTPP members in securing a trade agreement with the UK which allows continued access to patent protection in the UK and 37 other EPC members via the European Patent Organisation (EPO).”

“Our accession negotiations will be consistent with both our national interest and wider government priorities, which include our continued alignment with the EPC and other international IP treaties.”

CIPA was mentioned by name in Trade Oral Questions in parliament earlier in the day in an exchange between Angus MacNeil, Chair of the House of Commons’ International Trade Committee (who we had previously briefed) and Exports Minister Mike Steer.

Angus MacNeil: “The Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys supports the accession to CPTPP, but cautions that: ‘We believe that if the UK were to sign up the CPTPP IP chapter as currently drafted, this could have unintended consequences for our reputation as an international patent leader, for innovative small and medium-sized enterprises, for UK GDP and for the UK patent profession.’

“It asks that: ‘The UK…should take a very firm position and insist on carve-outs for the UK from these provisions of CPTPP.’ Will the Department take up that ask and insist that it happens?”

Mike Freer: “The Hon. Gentleman raises a good point. It is in my diary to meet him in the next few weeks; I suggest that he brings that paper with him and we can have a more fruitful discussion.”

We met and briefed Baroness Hayter, Chair of the Lords’ International Agreements Committee, on Tuesday 18 January, and continued to meet other politicians during the year, including members of the Commons’ International Trade Committee.

On 3 March we publicly welcomed a historic trade deal with New Zealand which we noted contained IP provisions that would support the UK economy by driving further innovation and creativity and that were fully in line with the Government’s commitment to respect existing international obligations on IP in its trade negotiations.

As the year progressed our contacts with the UK government’s CPTPP negotiating team grew stronger and more frequent. We also worked closely throughout the year with strategic communications consultants from Cicero AMO, who coordinated our parliamentary campaigning.

We ended the year safe in the knowledge that we had done all we could to best protect the profession and the wider innovation economy in the context of the CPTPP accession negotiations.

Download Annual Report 2022

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