Archive for December, 2010

I have always been a fan of the progressive nature of the European Patent Office, for example, including Turkey which is (at present) a non-EU state.

I was thus glad to see signs of a new partnership between the Moroccan Patent Office and the EPO. An agreement has been signed that appears similar to existing extension state agreements (wherein an European patent can be registered as a national patent in Balkan states that are not yet signatories to the European Patent Convention).

Whereas the extension state agreements became a stepping stone for becoming a full EPC signatory, the new Moroccan agreement appears to be a looser co-operation agreement that could pave the way for easy conversion of a European patent into a Moroccan national patent. Exact implementation details will follow amendments to Moroccan national law.

More details can be found here:

http://www.epo.org/topics/news/2010/20101220.html

http://www.eplawpatentblog.com/eplaw/2010/12/epo-european-patents-may-become-valid-in-morocco.html

Plans have been afoot since the dawn of time (well at least the 70s) for a unitary patent right across the whole of the EU (plus special guests like Turkey). See Wikipedia for background.

EU Patent?

As many may know, the existing “European Patent” is a bit of a hydra; on grant a centrally administered application is converted into a number of national rights which need to be managed and enforced nationally. For years European politicians have been labouring away to sort out this messy back-end to make it easier for patent owners to enforce their rights Europe-wide. However, the proposition covers a minefield of incendiary issues:  language (the Italians and Spanish get particularly fired up over this); forum-shopping (the British and Germans do not like the thought of national rights being litigated in back-water jurisdictions); replacement of sovereign rights; integration with the European Patent Office; the disjoin between EU members and European Patent Convention (EPC) states (the latter being more progressive)  etc..

Things had been placed back on the burner a little after several years in the wilderness. However, the language issue recently torpedoed any forward progress.

Interesting though, this weekend a number of rumours have been circulating that several EU countries are making another stab at it, this time in the form of a private arrangement under the Lisbon Treaty. This quite cleverly side-steps the language issue by leaving the Spanish and Italians on the outside of the private arrangement. For example, PatLit reports on an article in the Financial Times  and Axel Horns picks up on a tweet from Mr Vincent Van Quickenborne (great name), Belgian Minister for enterprise and streamlining policy.

Following on from my post here, the President of the EPO has decided that an applicant will not need to file search results under R.141(1) EPC if the priority application was first-filed in one of:

  • US,
  • UK, or
  • Japan.

These will be exchanged between the patent offices automatically. In most cases, US, British and Japanese attorneys (and the majority of their clients) can thus let out a sigh of relief.

As set out here, this adds to the exemptions available when the search reports were drawn up by the EPO (e.g. EPO search on international or national applications).

Still from January it is worth checking the state in which a  priority application was filed as a general procedural step.

Over on Linkedin somebody asked the question: How many registered patent attorneys are actually working? This got me thinking about the situation in Europe.

As of Feb 2008 there were just under 9000 European Patent Attorneys. However, 40% of those were “grandfathered in“, i.e. were practising national attorneys in 1977/1978.

If you estimate the youngest practising attorney in 1977/78 to be 25 years old (the average is probably around 30), this means that 40% of European Patent Attorneys are over 57 years old.

How many of these are still working? How many will retire in the next 5 years or so? Interesting questions.