The UK Intellectual Property Office has introduced two new searchable databases that could be helpful to companies doing business there.
The first is a database of expired patents; useful because calculating terms from issue dates is a cumbersome and often inaccurate way of determining whether a patent is in force (for example, if maintenance fees aren't paid, the invention could enter the public domain well before its apparent expiration date).
The second database lists patents that are available for a "License of Right," a form of compulsory license available in the UK where the patent holder agrees to make the patent available for license at a reasonable royalty, and the UK IPO acts as the arbiter of last resort in the event the parties are not able to come to terms.
The search interface is simple -- very Google-like, with a single search box -- and the test searches that I ran executed very quickly. Not at all like what the USPTO forces us to work with.