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Changes under EPC2000

As mentioned in our newsletter of June 2006, the EPC2000 will enter into force on 13 December 2007.

EPC2000 applies to all European patent applications and patents filed after this date. Transitional provisions determine to what extent the EPC2000 applies to applications pending or patents granted before this date.

Under EPC2000, filing procedures will change considerably for the benefit of the applicant. Bart van Wezenbeek will focus on this topic in his article and highlight some interesting consequences. For completeness” sake, the most important other changes to the EPC2000 can be summarized as follows.

(1) Substantive patent law remains largely unchanged. The main amendments are in Article
54(3), concerning the novelty-destroying effect of prior European patent applications, and Article 54(5), expressly providing for use-limited product protection for a second or further medical use of a known substance.

(2) New in the EPC2000 is that a requests for limitation or revocation may be filed at any time throughout the term of the European patent.

(3) Decisions of the boards of appeal can be contested by filing a petition for review if certain fundamental procedural defects occurred in the appeal proceedings or a criminal act may have had an impact on the decision. The purpose of a petition for review is not to obtain a review of the application of substantive law.

(4) The revised Article 121 EPC2000 (further processing) extends the application of further processing and makes it the standard remedy for missed time limits in the European patent grant procedure. Further processing will be available for all missed time limits in the grant procedure, with the exception of those excluded under Article 121(4) EPC2000 (see also the list of exclusions in Rule 135(2) EPC2000). As in the past, Article 121 EPC does not apply to the time limits to be observed by the parties in opposition and opposition appeal proceedings. Also further processing is available for partial loss of rights or where the missed time limit is one which is fixed by the Convention.

(5) Re-establishment of rights (Article 122) is now also possible under EPC2000 in respect of the priority period. The request must be filed within two months of the expiry of the priority period. Re-establishment of rights is not possible in respect of any period for which further processing under Article 121 EPC2000 is available. However, re-establishment of rights is possible in respect of the time limit for requesting further processing.