LAWFUEL – The Law News Network – On 13 December, Greece filed its instrument of ratification to the revised European Patent Convention (EPC 2000). It is the 15th state to do so and has thereby triggered the two-year countdown to implementation. EPC 2000 will enter into force no later than 13 December 2007, or earlier if ratified by all contracting states – in which case it would come into force three months after the last ratification.
The EPC is a multilateral treaty providing a legal framework for the granting of European Patents by means of a single patent application to the European Patent Office. It first came into force in October 1977 with seven Contracting States (including the UK) and currently has 31 Contracting States, as well as five “extension states” (which recognise European patents). Any Contracting State which has not ratified or acceded to EPC 2000 at the time of its entry into force will cease to be party to the EPC.
The impetus for change came from the European Patent Office and the Administrative Council in 1998, and a Basic Proposal was discussed at the Munich conference of November 2000. The aim was to integrate new developments in international law, especially the TRIPs Agreement and the Patent Law Treaty and to add a level of judicial review to Boards of Appeal decisions. The text of the Basic Proposal was somewhat diluted during the conference so the final version was not as wide ranging as had been expected.
What impact does EPC 2000 have?
Important aspects of the revision in summary are:
contrary to some expectations computer programs have not been deleted from Article 52(2)(c) EPC;
the wording Article 52(1) has been brought into line with Article 27(1) TRIPs specifying that patents shall be granted for inventions “in all fields of technology”;
the patentability of a known pharmaceutical for a new specific use has been affirmed (second medical use) under new Article 54(4) & (5);
the doctrine of equivalents is now mentioned in Article 2 of the Protocol on Article 69 EPC (but with no definition of equivalence);
the Administrative Council has been authorised to adapt the EPC to international treaties and Community law; and the Ministerial conference has been made a permanent institution of the EPC.
The UK ratified EPC 2000 on 26 May 2005. The Patents Act 2004 brought the Patents Act 1977 into line with EPC 2000 and no further changes to English law are required.