Significant Patent Law change in Europe in effect from 13 December 2007
On 13 December 2007, significant changes to the EPC (European Patent Convention) came into force. The legislative change, called “EPC 2000”, held a number of aims:
- to bring the EPC into line with international obligations;
- to introduce clarifying amendments to the law in line with actual working practice;
- to remove unnecessary provisions; and
- to transfer certain law provisions from the EPC to the regulations, which are more readily amendable, to facilitate such provisions to easier future change.
As can be gleaned from the title, the text of EPC 2000 was originally agreed upon in 2000. The delay in implementation was due to the time it took for a sufficient number of the relevant European countries to ratify the legislation.
The details of EPC 2000 can be reviewed on the following website hosted by the European Patent Office: http://www.epo.org/patents/law/legal-texts/epc2000.html
Some of the key changes include:
- Centralised post-grant amendment and examination by the European Patent Office. Previously, post-grant amendments had to be requested and examined by each national office.
- Expanding the prior art base on novelty assessment. A European patent application having an earlier priority date but published after a subject application will now entirely affect the novelty of the subject application. Previously, such prior art could be limited in effect to only the countries which the prior application had designated.
- A claim format for so-called second or further medical use of compositions is now expressly allowable.
- The definition of a ‘patentable invention’ has been clarified to follow accepted case law that an invention must have a ‘technical’ character.
- The ability for parties adversely affected by a decision of a Board of Appeal to petition the Enlarged Board of Appeal to review the decision. Previously the Enlarged Board of Appeal could only be petitioned by a Board of Appeal or the President of the EPO.