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UK patent courts and appeals

About patent courts
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This article describes which bodies handle approval, rejection, and disputes of patent validity in the UK. It should help you understand the case law in the UK‎.

The highest courts of the UK were renamed and reorganised in 2005 and 2009. This means some webpages contain out of date uses of their names.

England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland

The UK has three legal systems. There's English law, covering England and Wales, there's Scottish law, and there's Northern Irish law. However, there are no known cases where this separation is noteworthy for software patent law, so it can probably be ignored.

Patent office

The patent office is the UKIPO.

A higher decision-making body is the Comptroller General of Patents.


Since the reforms of 2005 and 2009

  • There's the Patents Court[1] which is part of the Chancery Division of the High Court (which is one of the three Senior Courts of England and Wales)
    • (And there's the Patents County Court[2][3] for simpler cases)
  • This can be appealed to the Court of Appeals (which is also one of the three Senior Courts of England and Wales)
  • And in last resort, this can be appealed to the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom

There might be a possible stage before going to the Patents Court (or the Patents County Court), such as a County Court, but if this does exist then the case law would be from so low down in the hierarchy that it would have little or no significance anyway.

The third court of the Senior Courts of England and Wales is the Crown Court, but this doesn't hear patent cases.

Judges are sometimes referred to by their name followed by a capital J with a full stop. So Judge Lush is Lush J. in some documents. Or L.J. for Lord Justice, etc.

Before the reforms

The following is just to help with understanding the value of rulings made before the reforms.

The Supreme Court was created in the reform of 2009. Before then, the House of Lords was the highest court. The judges on the new Supreme Court are the same judges who heard cases for the House of Lords, so it's just a change of name, not really a new court. However, the House of Lords doesn't seem to have made any patent rulings that are relevant today, so it can probably be ignored, leaving the Court of Appeal as the highest court.

The three courts which are today collectively referred to as the Senior Courts of England and Wales, were referred to as the Supreme Court of England and Wales until the reform of 2005. Not to be confused with the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom which was created in the 2009 reform, nor with the Supreme Court of Judicature, which was the name for the Senior Courts of England and Wales before 1981.

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