asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether it is still the Government's intention to make the Patent Office a statutory non-departmental public body.
Since the Government first took the decision to hive off the Patent Office in January 1986, the patent business of the Patent Office has shown a further marked decline. This reflects a continuing loss of work to the European Patent Office (EPO) on a scale exceeding that foreseen earlier. In the light of this development, my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster commissioned a review of the future of the Patent Office, led by two independent industrialists advised by a firm of management consultants. They concluded that, notwithstanding the other business in trade marks, service marks and designs, and the possibility of some small amounts of non-statutory business, the Patent Office as a whole would not be viable in the longer term as a free standing body, given the continuing loss of its core patent business. In the light of this advice we have decided not to hive off the Patent Office but to retain it as part of my department.Patents will continue to be available in the United Kingdom, but there may come a point in the future when it is advantageous and cheaper for all UK applicants to follow the EPO route as the costs of the EPO fall with rising volumes and the costs of the UK office rise as volumes continue to fall. My right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster asked my officials to seek discussions with the European office about ways in which this continuing transfer of patent work can be most effectively accomplished in the interests of all Patent Office users.