Patents and compulsory licences

This note looks at compulsory licences and the situation in which a patent owner can be forced to licence their patent.

An owner can be forced to grant a compulsory licence where (s48):

a) 3 years have elapsed since the grant of the patent; and

b) the applicant shows a ground for granting a compulsory licence (the grounds are found in s48(a)).

S48(a) provides for three such grounds:

a) where demands (in the UK) for a patented product is not being met on reasonable terms; or

b) where a patent owner refuses to grant a licence of an ‘economically significant technology’ on reasonable terms and a patent cannot be exploited without infringing this patent, or the development of commercial activities (again in the UK) are being unfairly pre-judiced; or

c) where the conditions imposed by the patent owner on the manufacture or disposal of products not covered by the patent or the development of commercial activities (again in the UK) are unfairly pre-judiced.

It should be noted that it is very rare for compulsory licences to be granted in the UK.

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