Jon Gowshall of Forrester Ketley & Co. sent us a note on changes to UK patent law starting on 1 January 2005. The changes are to bring UK law into line with the WIPO Patent Law Treaty (PLT) signed in Geneva in June 2000, and into line with the European Patent Convention as prospectively amended in 2000 (but not yet in force). These changes make the UK patent system much more applicant friendly, allowing rights to be safeguarded in situations where, previously, they would have been lost.
Some changes include:
1. Restoration of priority – If the twelve-month Convention deadline is missed, the new law allows a late application claiming priority to be filed, providing that it is filed within 2 months of the Convention deadline, and provided that the Comptroller of Patents is satisfied that the applicant always intended to file the application within the 12 month period.
2. Rush filing – The date of filing an application for a patent shall be taken to be the earliest date on which documents filed at the Patent Office to initiate the application satisfy the following conditions –
(i) the documents indicate that a patent is sought;
(ii) the documents identify the person applying for a patent or contain information sufficient to enable that person to be contacted by the Patent Office; and
(iii) the documents contain either: (a) something which is or appears to be a description of the invention for which a patent is sought; or (b) a reference, complying with the relevant requirements, to an earlier relevant application made by the applicant or a predecessor in title of his.
3. Extensions of time for reinstatement – available once, by a period of two months as of right. Extension must be requested in writing within two months of the expiry of the period in question.
4. Restoration of Lapsed Patents – restoration will be granted if the applicant can simply prove that his failure to pay the fee was unintentional.
5. Medical Use Claims – can now claim "Swiss-style" claims as ?Substance Y for use in treatment of disease X?.
I will be interested in seeing how the rush filing provisions are handled in practice. These type of provisions are already available in Scandinavia, for example. I’m always in favor in having some leeway in terms of getting a filing date. If only the Patent Office could just know what I meant to file…