https://www.epo.org/en/node/searching-and-understanding-data

Searching and understanding data on Supplementary Protection Certificates (SPCs)

This is the second part of our series on Supplementary Protection Certificates (SPC). After last month's introduction to key features of SPCs, this article shows you how to search SPC-related data using the EPO’s search tools. 

Part II: SPC information in the EPO's databases 

Bibliographic data on SPCs is widely available in the EPO's data sets, tools, and services as visible in the Espacenet coverage table (see link below). The table is updated on a daily basis and shows the coverage of bibliographic data by country codes (patent authorities) and kind codes. 

SPCs are separate IP rights that come into effect when the corresponding patent expires. They are granted with their own kind code and number. You can recognise SPCs by their kind code "I", followed by the digit 1, 2 or 9: 

I1 

Supplementary protection certificate application 

I2 

Supplementary protection certificate  

I9 

Complete corrected supplementary protection certificate 

Figure 1: Kind codes related to Supplementary Protection Certificates (SPCs) 


The kind code and the number format used for SPCs are provided by the respective jurisdiction. Figure 2 shows an amended SPC from Luxembourg published under the number LU92512 (INID 21) and the kind code "I9". 

Example of an SPC from LuxembourgFigure 2: Example of an SPC from Luxembourg 

Please note that kind code "I" is also used for U.S. patent term extension data.  

For an overview of all application/priority numbers and kind codes, you can consult our weekly updated concordance table (see link below).  

Let's take a look at what information is available in Espacenet for the SPC from Luxembourg. In addition to bibliographic data, you can access the SPC in a PDF format by clicking on Original document, which gives an overview of the simple and extended patent family (Patent family tab). 

Please be aware that SPC certificates in a PDF format are currently only available in a few jurisdictions such as Belgium, Luxemburg and the Netherlands. 

As indicated in Figure 2 (Inid code 68), this SPC is based on the European patent EP1973888. If you open this EP patent in Espacenet, you can obtain further SPC-related information. In the Bibliographic data section, you will find links to SPC records associated with this patent in the information on family members under Published as (see Figure 3). Please note that not all SPCs from national authorities are included in the patent family, so this list may not be complete. 

List of family members for EP1973888 with SPCs circled in redFigure 3: List of family members for EP1973888 with SPCs circled in red 


For a more comprehensive overview, please consult the Legal events section. Here you can also obtain information on SPCs that are not included in the above list of family members, such as those for Finland and France in the example of EP1973888:  

Legal event entries for SPCs related to EP1973888Figure 4: Legal event entries for SPCs related to EP1973888. 


Beyond Espacenet, similar information on SPCs is available in DOCDB in an XML dataset, as well as in tools built on DOCDB in XML such as GPI and PATSTAT. Furthermore, you can retrieve the same bibliographic data - both family concepts and PDF certificates - via the OPS Application Programming Interface (OPS API). 

The following table shows tools for searching and retrieving SPC records, including bibliographic data, legal events and the SPC in a PDF format, if available. 

Tool/data/service 

Search  

Retrieve 

Espacenet  

yes 

yes 

OPS API (OPS published with search or bibliographic data, as well as equivalents and image constituents 

yes 

yes 

Global Patent Index  

yes (including search for SPC legal events) 

yes 

PATSTAT Global/Online 

yes 

yes 

DOCDB in XML dataset 

no (yes, if you index after upload) 

yes 

Figure 5: EPO tools for searching and retrieving SPC information 


SPCs in a patent family 

The validity of SPCs is determined by the first authorisation date in any EU member state and the basic patent's expiration date in the country where the application was filed. All EU member states share the same initial authorisation date, while the expiry date of the "basic" patent can vary by up to 12 months from country to country. 

So, if you find an SPC for any family member, this can be seen as an important signal that the patent may have an extension beyond 20 years in additional member states too. Accordingly, we strongly advise you to check the validity in all member states separately.  

You can do this via the EPO's Federated Register, which is incorporated in the European Patent Register. If the country is not linked through the Federated Register, you can check the national registers directly to check when each patent will expire after the extension. 

Screenshot from EP Federated RegisterFigure 6: Screenshot from EP Federated Register. 


The following screenshot shows the national registers of Sweden and Luxembourg with information on SPCs related to patent EP1973888:  

SPC-related information in the national registers of Sweden (left) and Luxembourg (right)Figure 7: SPC-related information in the national registers of Sweden (left) and Luxembourg (right).  

Our next article in this series will focus on legal event information on SPCs. 


Keywords: Supplementary protection certificate, SPC, Espacenet, legal event, patent term extension