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European Patent Convention (EPC 1973)

 
 
A revised version of the European Patent Convention entered into force on 13 December 2007. The provisions of the revised Convention apply unless the transitional provisions provide for the applicability of the EPC 1973.

PROTOCOL ON THE CENTRALISATION OF THE EUROPEAN PATENT SYSTEM AND ON ITS INTRODUCTION
(PROTOCOL ON CENTRALISATION)

of 5 October 1973



Section I 1


(1)(a) Upon entry into force of the Convention, States parties thereto which are also members of the International Patent Institute set up by the Hague Agreement of 6 June 1947 shall take all necessary steps to ensure the transfer to the European Patent Office no later than the date referred to in Article 162, paragraph 1, of the Convention of all assets and liabilities and all staff members of the International Patent Institute. Such transfer shall be effected by an agreement between the International Patent Institute and the European Patent Organisation. The above States and the other States parties to the Convention shall take all necessary steps to ensure that that agreement shall be implemented no later than the date referred to in Article 162, paragraph 1, of the Convention. Upon implementation of the agreement, those Member States of the International Patent Institute which are also parties to the Convention further undertake to terminate their participation in the Hague Agreement.


(b) The States parties to the Convention shall take all necessary steps to ensure that all the assets and liabilities and all the staff members of the International Patent Institute are taken into the European Patent Office in accordance with the agreement referred to in sub-paragraph (a). After the implementation of that agreement the tasks incumbent upon the International Patent Institute at the date on which the Convention is opened for signature, and in particular those carried out vis-à-vis its Member States, whether or not they become parties to the Convention, and such tasks as it has undertaken at the time of the entry into force of the Convention to carry out vis-à-vis States which, at that date, are both members of the International Patent Institute and parties to the Convention, shall be assumed by the European Patent Office. In addition, the Administrative Council of the European Patent Organisation may allocate further duties in the field of searching to the European Patent Office.


(c) The above obligations shall also apply mutatis mutandis to the sub-office set up under the Hague Agreement under the conditions set out in the agreement between the International Patent Institute and the Government of the Contracting State concerned. This Government hereby undertakes to make a new agreement with the European Patent Organisation in place of the one already made with the International Patent Institute to harmonise the clauses concerning the organisation, operation and financing of the sub-office with the provisions of this Protocol.


(2) Subject to the provisions of Section III, the States parties to the Convention shall, on behalf of their central industrial property offices, renounce in favour of the European Patent Office any activities as International Searching Authorities under the Patent Cooperation Treaty as from the date referred to in Article 162, paragraph 1, of the Convention.


(3)(a) A sub-office of the European Patent Office [...] shall be set up in Berlin [...] as from the date referred to in Article 162, paragraph 1, of the Convention. It shall operate under the direction of the branch at The Hague.


(b) The Administrative Council shall determine the duties to be allocated to the sub-office in Berlin in the light of general considerations and of the requirements of the European Patent Office [...].


(c) At least at the beginning of the period following the progressive expansion of the field of activity of the European Patent Office, the amount of work assigned to that sub-office shall be sufficient to enable the examining staff of the Berlin Annex of the German Patent Office, as it stands at the date on which the Convention is opened for signature, to be fully employed.


(d) The Federal Republic of Germany shall bear any additional costs incurred by the European Patent Organisation in setting up and maintaining the sub-office in Berlin.



Section II


Subject to the provisions of Sections III and IV, the States parties to the Convention shall, on behalf of their central industrial property offices, renounce in favour of the European Patent Office any activities as International Preliminary Examining Authorities under the Patent Cooperation Treaty. This obligation shall apply only to the extent to which the European Patent Office may examine European patent applications in accordance with Article 162, paragraph 2, of the Convention and shall not apply until two years after the date on which the European Patent Office has begun examining activities in the areas of technology concerned, on the basis of a five-year plan which shall progressively extend the activities of the European Patent Office to all areas of technology and which may be amended only by decision of the Administrative Council. The procedures for implementing this obligation shall be determined by decision of the Administrative Council.



Section III


(1) The central industrial property office of any State party to the Convention in which the official language is not one of the official languages of the European Patent Office, shall be authorised to act as an International Searching Authority and as an International Preliminary Examining Authority under the Patent Cooperation Treaty. Such authorisation shall be subject to an undertaking by the State concerned to restrict such activities to international applications filed by nationals or residents of such State and by nationals or residents of States parties to the Convention which are adjacent to that State. The Administrative Council may decide to authorise the central industrial property office of any State party to the Convention to extend such activities to cover such international applications as may be filed by nationals or residents of any non-Contracting State having the same official language as the Contracting State in question and drawn up in that language.


(2) For the purpose of harmonising search activities under the Patent Cooperation Treaty within the framework of the European system for the grant of patents, co-operation shall be established between the European Patent Office and any central industrial property office authorised under this Section. Such co-operation shall be based on a special agreement which may cover e.g. search procedures and methods, qualifications required for the recruitment and training of examiners, guidelines for the exchange of search and other services between the offices as well as other measures needed to establish the required control and supervision.



Section IV


(1)(a) For the purpose of facilitating the adaptation of the national patent offices of the States parties to the Convention to the European patent system, the Administrative Council may, if it considers it desirable, and subject to the conditions set out below, entrust the central industrial property offices of such of those States in which it is possible to conduct the proceedings in one of the official languages of the European Patent Office with tasks concerning the examination of European patent applications drawn up in that language which, pursuant to Article 18, paragraph 2, of the Convention, shall, as a general rule, be entrusted to a member of the Examining Division. Such tasks shall be carried out within the framework of the proceedings for grant laid down in the Convention; decisions on such applications shall be taken by the Examining Division composed in accordance with Article 18, paragraph 2.


(b) Tasks entrusted under sub-paragraph (a) shall not be in respect of more than 40% of the total number of European patent applications filed; tasks entrusted to any one State shall not be in respect of more than one-third of the total number of European patent applications filed. These tasks shall be entrusted for a period of 15 years from the opening of the European Patent Office and shall be reduced progressively (in principle by 20% a year) to zero during the last 5 years of the period.


(c) The Administrative Council shall decide, while taking into account the provisions of sub-paragraph (b), upon the nature, origin and number of the European patent applications in respect of which examining tasks may be entrusted to the central industrial property office of each of the Contracting States mentioned above.


(d) The above implementing procedures shall be set out in a special agreement between the central industrial property office of the Contracting State concerned and the European Patent Organisation.


(e) An office with which such a special agreement has been concluded may act as an International Preliminary Examining Authority under the Patent Cooperation Treaty, until the expiry of the period of 15 years.


(2)(a) If the Administrative Council considers that it is compatible with the proper functioning of the European Patent Office, and in order to alleviate the difficulties which may arise for certain Contracting States from the application of Section I, paragraph 2, it may entrust searching in respect of European patent applications to the central industrial property offices of those States in which the official language is one of the official languages of the European Patent Office, provided that these offices possess the necessary qualifications for appointment as an International Searching Authority in accordance with the conditions laid down in the Patent Cooperation Treaty.


(b) In carrying out such work, undertaken under the responsibility of the European Patent Office, the central industrial property offices concerned shall adhere to the guidelines applicable to the drawing up of the European search report.


(c) The provisions of paragraph 1(b), second sentence, and sub-paragraph (d) of this Section shall apply to this paragraph.



Section V


(1) The sub-office referred to in Section I, paragraph 1(c), shall be authorised to carry out searches, among the documentation which is at its disposal and which is in the official language of the State in which the sub-office is located, in respect of European patent applications filed by nationals and residents of that State. This authorisation shall be on the understanding that the procedure for the grant of European patents will not be delayed and that additional costs will not be incurred for the European Patent Organisation.


(2) The sub-office referred to in paragraph 1 shall be authorised to carry out, at the option of an applicant for a European patent and at his expense, a search on his patent application among the documentation referred to in paragraph 1. This authorisation shall be effective until the search provided for in Article 92 of the Convention has been extended, in accordance with Section VI, to cover such documentation and shall be on the understanding that the procedure for the grant of European patents will not be delayed.


(3) The Administrative Council may also extend the authorisations provided for in paragraphs 1 and 2, under the conditions of those paragraphs, to the central industrial property office of a Contracting State which does not have as an official language one of the official languages of the European Patent Office.



Section VI


The search provided for in Article 92 of the Convention shall, in principle, be extended, in respect of all European patent applications, to published patents, published patent applications and other relevant documents of Contracting States not included in the search documentation of the European Patent Office on the date referred to in Article 162, paragraph 1, of the Convention. The extent, conditions and timing of any such extension shall be determined by the Administrative Council on the basis of a study concerning particularly the technical and financial aspects.



Section VII


The provisions of this Protocol shall prevail over any contradictory provisions of the Convention.



Section VIII


The decisions of the Administrative Council provided for in this Protocol shall require a three-quarters majority (Article 35, paragraph 2, of the Convention). The provisions governing the weighting of votes (Article 36 of the Convention) shall apply.


 



1 Amended by the Act revising the European Patent Convention of 29.11.2000, provisionally applicable as of 29.11.2000 (OJ EPO 2001, Special edition No. 4).