The UK Intellectual Property Office (UKIPO) has announced changes to the Fast Track patent application system, to make it easier and cheaper for businesses to apply for global patents.

The changes are part of the UK and US intellectual property authorities’ wider initiative to get more businesses to use the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) Fast Track system. As of 28 May 2010, patent applicants can request accelerated examination in the UK phase if their international application has received a preliminary approval report.

Entrepreneurs and start-ups will welcome the move, as the high costs of applying for and enforcing intellectual proprety (IP) rights can be off-putting for smaller organisations. Last year, the Hargreaves Review of Intellectual Property and Growth recommended the establishment of a small claims service to remedy this.

The UK introduced the Fast Track system in June 2010, with the aim of getting business’ patents granted faster and more cheaply.

With the changes, applicants will now have the chance to make changes to an international application and still have the opportunity to request accelerating processing in the UK.

“This change removes a bureaucratic hurdle and increase the flexibility and accessibility of the patent application process,” the UKIPO said.

“[The PCT system] also helps reduce the current backlog of patent applications estimated to be costing the global economy more than £7 billion a year.”

At present, fewer than 10 percent of the two million applications for global patents go through the PCT system.