Tuesday, 28 July 2009
As all UK patent attorneys will know, getting an order under section 22 is a complete pain. Not quite as bad as dentistry without anaesthetics, but not far off and, for the applicant, somewhat more expensive. Unfortunately it is not always easy to know what qualifies as "being information the publication of which might be prejudicial to national security" (according to s22(1)), so the general rule is either to wait six weeks after filing a UK patent application to find out if a order has been made or, if a first filing outside the UK is required and there is no time to do anything else, to send a copy of your application to the mysterious Room GR70 and ask if it is safe to file it abroad without risking being put in prison for up to two years (s22(9)).
The UK-IPO have now issued some guidance on what might constitute information that could risk a section 22 order being made. Along with the obvious ones like nuclear bombs and chemical weapons, however, there are quite a few categories in which apparently innocuous technology could conceivably fall foul of a secrecy order. The IPKat wonders whether an application directed to encryption, electronics or aerials (to take just a few examples from the list, all of which this Kat has drafted applications to without any thought to a secrecy order being relevant) would fall foul if no mention were to be made of a military application. If encryption is useful, it it not also useful militarily? As a result, in the IPKat's view, this list does not really provide any help at all, and seems likely to result in more confusion for patent attorneys and more work for those in Room GR70. If anyone has any properly useful guidance about what to look out for, could they please let the IPKat and his readers know?