INFORMATION FROM THE EPO
Notices of the President of the EPO
Notice from the President of the European Patent Office dated 24 March 2000 concerning revision of the European Patent Convention
In a decision dated 24 February 20001 the Administrative Council of the European Patent Organisation convened an EPC revision conference of the contracting states. The conference is to be held in Munich from 20 to 29 November 2000. Invitations to attend the conference as observers have also been extended to the states entitled to accede to the EPC, the other states with observer status on the Administrative Council and numerous intergovernmental and non-governmental organisations with an interest in the European patent system.
The revision project, launched by the Administrative Council back in 1998, takes the mandate of the June 1999 Paris intergovernmental conference into account (OJ EPO 1999, 545, 550, point 5). It will provide a welcome opportunity to undertake a comprehensive review of the 1973 European Patent Convention, almost 30 years after its signing, in the light of technical and legal developments and over twenty years of practical experience. The aim of the revision is to subject the European patent system to cautious modernisation, while maintaining the proven principles of substantive patent law and procedural law which underlie the 1973 EPC. The European Patent Organisation is to be given the power to respond flexibly to future challenges, particularly in view of its forthcoming expansion to at least 28 member states.
The revision project will examine the needs and suggestions of users, proposals originating from the contracting states and the EPO's own requirements and will implement them by amending the Convention where this seems necessary or appropriate. The guiding principle behind the revision is everyone's interest in the smooth, efficient and transparent conduct of all proceedings before the EPO, without putting existing quality standards at risk. Thus provisions relating to procedural details (formal requirements, time limits, fees) are to be transferred from the Convention to the Implementing Regulations so that European patent law can continue in future to be quickly and effectively brought into line with new requirements. There is a proposal to introduce a central limitation procedure before the EPO. Legal remedies for parties to proceedings are to be improved and expanded.
Developments in international law are also to be taken into account. The EPC needs to be brought into line with the TRIPs Agreement, the future Community patent and the provisions of the forthcoming Patent Law Treaty (PLT), eg regarding the requirements for according a filing date, electronic filing of applications or re-establishment of rights in respect of the priority period.
All revision proposals have been transmitted by the Administrative Council to the Committee on Patent Law, which includes epi and UNICE representatives, for further consideration and are also being submitted to SACEPO for its opinion.
The preliminary draft of the Basic Proposal, which will contain all the points for revision and form the basis for deliberations at the Diplomatic Conference, is currently being prepared by the EPO in the light of the results of discussions to date and opinions from the interest groups involved and will be submitted to the Committee on Patent Law in early July. It will also be supplied to the non-governmental organisations invited to attend the conference for an additional opinion. The final version of the Basic Proposal is due to be fixed at a special meeting of the Administrative Council at the start of September and made available to conference participants and interested members of the public.
1 Printed on p. 173 of this issue.