What’s New?  The EPO Consults On Novelty Grace Periods


To obtain a valid European patent for an invention, the details must be kept secret before a patent application is filed.  This patent application will be examined to determine whether the concept was new, and sufficiently inventive, at the date the application was filed.  Making the invention public before that date means that the subject of the application is no longer ‘new’, undermining the ability to obtain valid protection.

Some countries provide a “grace period”, allowing an inventor to make the invention public before an application is filed, without it impacting their ability to obtain a patent.  Notably, the United States, Japan, South Korea, Canada and Australia, all provide such grace periods.

The European Patent Office (EPO) has announced that it has commissioned a survey of patent applicants, to gauge their views on whether European patent laws should be relaxed to provide a grace period.  The EPO plans to analyse the results of the survey and publish those details this coming spring.

While the details and nature of the proposal are unclear at this stage, and a more structured plan for introducing this change is likely to follow, the idea of relaxing this aspect of European patent law is one that is likely to provoke much debate.

For more information, please visit the EPO website.

Dr Nick Palmer
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