Intellectual property – guidance

National security checks on patent applications

All patent applications filed at the IPO are checked to identify any which could be prejudicial to national security or public safety.

Overview

A small number of applications may become subject to directions under section 22 of the Patents Act. This places restrictions on, for example, the disclosure of the application to any third party or filing equivalent applications abroad.

Applications where directions under section 22 are known to be required, for example when a government department or a foreign government requires secrecy, or applications which relate to a classified government contract, should be filed directly to:

Security Section
Room GR70
Intellectual Property Office
Concept House
Cardiff Road
Newport
South Wales
NP10 8QQ
United Kingdom

You should not use facsimile transmission or electronic filing.

You may file such applications by hand at Newport or London in envelopes marked ‘for attention of Room GR70’ but only during opening hours. You should inform the receptionist that the application is for GR70 rather than the usual front office.

If you need further advice on making an application which may be prejudicial to national security or public safety, please contact Security Section at the above address, or by telephone on +44 (0)16 3381 3558 or fax on +44 (0)16 3381 4415.

We have published guidance on what we could consider prejudicial to national security or the safety of the public.

We screen every application filed to check whether it should be placed under directions according to Section 22 of the Patents Act 1977. This includes applications such as:

  • UK national applications
  • European patent applications under the European Patent Convention (EPC)
  • international applications under the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT)

If such directions are imposed, we will write to you within six weeks of filing your application. You must provide an address for service within the UK for all applications placed under section 22 directions.

The directions under section 22 may only be lifted after your application has been inspected by the Ministry of Defence. You must file a Form DP2 to request such an inspection (we will send a copy of this form to you when we notify you of the directions); it is in your interest to return this form to us as soon as possible if you think the directions should not remain in force.

The following is a brief guide to the procedures for the different types of application if placed under section 22 directions.

UK national applications

Your application can undergo search and examination whilst under the directions, but it will not be published or granted until the directions are lifted. You will also be restricted by law from discussing the contents of your application to any person without prior permission from the Intellectual Property Office. Filing equivalent applications abroad will also not be possible unless permission is obtained from us. But, once the directions are revoked, publication and grant will be possible, subject of course to the normal requirements for all UK patent applications.

European patent (EP) applications under the EPC

If an EP application is placed under section 22 directions it will not be forwarded to the European Patent Office until the directions are revoked. If the directions remain in force 14 months from the priority date of your application (or the filing date if no priority is claimed), then the application will be treated as withdrawn under Article 75 of the EPC. Section 81 of the Patents Act then allows you to request conversion of your European application into a national application in the UK. Similarly, subject to permission from the Intellectual Property Office, it may also be possible to convert your EP application into national applications in other EPC member countries under Article 135 of the EPC.

International applications under the PCT

An international application under the PCT will not be forwarded to the International Bureau of World Intellectual Property Organisation until the directions under section 22 have been revoked. If the directions remain in force 14 months from the priority date, the international application will be treated as withdrawn under rule 22.1 of the PCT. The application may proceed in the UK by requesting early entry into the national phase under section 89A(3)(b) of the Patents Act 1977.