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Intellectual property, encryption and ‘death tax’

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More UK companies protecting intellectual property

European patent applications filed by British applicants rose by 5.7 per cent in 2015 compared to the previous year, according to figures released by the EPO, representing the largest annual increase for British applicants in five years.

European patent applications are single applications examined and granted centrally by the EPO, but what is obtained are separate national patents providing protection in countries chosen by the applicant at the end of the process.

It is hoped that within the next 12 months businesses will be able to use the EPO to obtain an EU patent, known as the Unitary Patent, which would cover the most EU states including the UK, provided it was still a member of the EU. British applicants that filed European patent applications last year are likely to have this option by the time their applications are granted.

Last year there were 5,037 patent applications to the EPO filed by British applicants, the highest number since 2011. However, the UK still lags behind many of its European neighbours when patent applications are counted per head of population.

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WhatsApp and US government involved in battle over breaking encryption to access to user messages

The US government is attempting to force WhatsApp to break its security so that it can read the messages of a specific user, according to reports.

The Justice Department and the Facebook-owned company are currently locked in a standoff about how to spy on certain messages, according to the New York Times. A judge has allowed the government to look in on the chats of the user, but it can’t do so because those messages are encrypted, reports the New York Times.

The new case shows how the argument over encryption is spreading across the biggest technology companies, putting many of them against the Obama administration. The same dispute is playing out in the UK, as the British government attempts to force tech companies including WhatsApp and Apple to help hack into the phones of their users.

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'New death tax' will make cashflow problems worse for the bereaved

A sharp rise in probate fees will heap an extra logistical – as well as financial – burden on executors and families, solicitors have warned.

Currently executors pay a flat fee of £215 for probate regardless of the size of the estate. Under new rules, which the Government is consulting on, a sliding scale of fees will be introduced, capped at £20,000 for estates worth more than £2m.

But as with other costs and taxes relating to death, this fee needs to be settled before the executor – usually a spouse or child – can actually get their hands on money held within the estate.

This can seem counter-intuitive and comes as a surprise to many executors and family members. It can create a cash flow crisis, especially when the value of the estate consists mainly of non-cash assets such as property.

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