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Intellectual Property Act 2014

Schedule: minor amendments to the Patents Act 1977

Paragraph 1: Patent applications in or for WTO members

75.This provision removes uncertainty created when the 1977 Act was amended in 1999. It does not affect substantive patent law.

76.Section 5 of the 1977 Act concerns the international system for establishing a “priority date” of an invention for which patent protection is sought. The date that a patent application is filed in a first country establishes that invention’s “priority date”, and later patent applications (for the same invention) filed in other countries can then be treated as having been filed on that same priority date. Generally speaking, those later applications must be filed within 12 months of the first filing. This system was established by the Paris Convention of 1883, and each country to which it applies is called a “convention country” in section 5 of the 1977 Act.

77.The amendment made in 1999 (by SI 1999/1899) was intended to allow a country who joined the World Trade Organisation (“WTO”) to be treated automatically as a convention country for the purposes of section 5. However, this objective was not achieved by the insertion of section 5(6) of the 1977 Act, and it has remained necessary for an Order in Council to be made when a country joins the WTO. To remove this necessity, new section 5(5)(aa) provides that a patent application filed in a WTO country is of the same status, for priority purposes, as a patent application filed in the UK or any other convention country.

Paragraph 2: Assertion of third party rights where application terminated

78.In the event that a patent application is terminated and then subsequently reinstated, the 1977 Act makes it clear that, if a third party started to exploit the invention covered by the patent application in good faith in the period between termination and reinstatement, they may continue to exploit that invention without infringing the provisional rights which are conferred on the patent applicant once a patent application has been published. This is commonly referred to as having “third party rights”.

79.There appear to be two conflicting positions in the 1977 Act on the starting point for these third party rights. Under section 20B(3) of the 1977 Act, someone would be infringing the provisional rights of the patent applicant if they started to work the invention in the period after an application is terminated when it was possible for the patent applicant to request an extension of time to the period the applicant had failed to meet. However, section 20B(4) of the 1977 Act provides third party rights to anyone who started to work the invention in good faith in the period between the patent application being terminated and the reinstatement request being published.

80.This has resulted in an overlap in the period when third party rights are available and the period when working the invention would be considered to infringe the provisional rights of the applicant. A party could be simultaneously liable to infringement under one part of the Act (section 20B(3)) and at the same time entitled to work the invention under another (section 20B(4)), if they started to work the invention in the period when an extension of time was possible.

81.Paragraph 2 clarifies that third party rights do not begin until the end of the period during which the patent applicant can request under the 1977 Act or under the Patents Rules (S.I. 2007/3291) an extension of time to the period the applicant had failed to meet.

Paragraph 3: Adjustment of certain time periods to anniversary date model

82.Parties who feel that they are entitled to an interest in a patent can ask the IPO to consider the matter. A successful claim may result in remedies such as the ownership of the patent being transferred, an additional patent owner being added or the patent being partially or fully revoked and the rightful owner being given permission to file a new patent application in their name.

83.The 1977 Act provides a period of two years “beginning with” the date of grant for parties to file an entitlement action with the IPO and benefit from the remedies discussed above. Under standard formulations used for calculating time periods in legislation, this would not be considered to include the second anniversary of the date on which the patent was granted. For example, if a patent was granted on 2 October 2012, the time period for filing an entitlement action and benefitting from the remedies discussed above would end on 1 October 2014.

84.This paragraph extends the time period in which a party can apply to the IPO to initiate such a challenge to the ownership of a granted patent and benefit from these remedies. The paragraph adjusts the time period available so that it continues to run from (and include) the date of grant of the patent but finishes on (and includes) the corresponding second anniversary date at the end of the two year period. For example, for a patent granted on 2 October 2012, the time period for filing an entitlement action and benefiting from the remedies discussed above will end on 2 October 2014.

Paragraph 4: References to “counsel”

85.This paragraph removes the requirement for the Attorney General to be represented only by counsel in proceedings before the courts in appeals relating to compulsory licences relating to granted patents, and allows representation by a person who has a right of audience. The paragraph also removes the requirement for counsel for a party involved in a dispute relating to the Crown use of patented inventions to be the recipient of certain confidential disclosures, and allows such disclosures to be made to that party’s legal representative.

86.Previous legislative changes under the CDPA, the Courts and Legal Services Act 1990 and the Legal Services Act 2007 have introduced general rights of audience in proceedings and appeals before the IPO and the courts to include solicitors and patent attorneys. This amendment will allow wider rights of audience for solicitors and registered patent attorneys in the two specific types of disputes before the courts detailed above. This gives consistency with the general rights of audience now in operation before the IPO and the courts for other types of disputes and appeals.

Paragraph 6: European patent (UK): payment of renewal fee following restoration

87.Annual renewal fees must be paid over the lifetime of a granted patent to keep the patent in force. When a patent is revoked, the payment of these renewal fees is unnecessary. For a European (UK) patent granted by the European Patent Office (“EPO”) which is then revoked during proceedings before the EPO Board of Appeal, it is possible to restore the patent following an appeal to the Enlarged Board of Appeal. However, while the appeal is considered, the patent remains revoked and annual renewal fees are not payable. If the appeal is successful and the patent is restored, the payment of annual renewal fees resumes but there has been legal uncertainty as to whether it is necessary to pay the outstanding renewal fees that would have been due while the appeal was being considered and the patent was considered as being revoked.

88.This paragraph clarifies the position by inserting a requirement for the payment of any such outstanding renewal fees where a European (UK) patent which has been revoked by the Board of Appeal is subsequently restored after a successful appeal to the Enlarged Board of Appeal.

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