The new Belgian Patent Act of 10 January 2011 is expected to enter into force in the autumn of 2014.
The new Act will be incorporated into the Code of Economic Law (Wetboek Economisch Recht) as Book XI. The new Patent Act will provide for the digital submission of patent applications, amongst other things. In the meantime, the Dutch, Belgian and Luxembourg intellectual property offices have taken the initiative to create the Benelux Patent Platform (BPP), which they have done under the supervision of the Benelux Office for Intellectual Property.
This BPP will be introduced in Belgium first. In the Netherlands, the BPP will, in time, replace the current platform offered by the Netherlands Patent Office (Octrooicentrum Nederland), which is supported by the EPO. In Belgium and Luxembourg, the BPP will be a springboard for further automation and digitalisation. It is anticipated that the BPP will be launched on 22 September 2014. Because the BPP covers a number of functionalities that will become possible by virtue of the new Belgian Patent Act, the Act will enter into effect on the same date.
Harmonisation of the Belgian Patent Act
The new Belgian Patent Act makes it possible to submit Belgian, European and international patent applications online. However, the new Act brings other aspects more closely in line with patent legislation in surrounding countries too. For example, with effect from the autumn of 2014, publication will always be effected as soon as possible after 18 months have passed since the first submission date, regardless of whether the novelty report is available. In the future, it will also be possible to submit a Belgian patent application in the English language. However, a translation of the application in Dutch, French or German must be submitted to the Belgian intellectual property office within three months of the original application. The new Act also offers the possibility of re-establishment when an application lapses because a deadline has not been met.
Possibilities for re-establishment
A number of possibilities for re-establishment have entered into force early – with effect from 13 March 2014. This has come about further to a ruling by the Constitutional Court (Grondwettelijk Hof) on 16 January 2014 (ruling no. 3/2014), in which it was ruled that the absence of a re-establishment facility is, in certain cases, unconstitutional. For example, re-establishment must be possible in situations in which priority documents have not been submitted on time or if the validation period has been exceeded. However, if clients wish to re-establish priority if a priority period is missed, they will have to wait until the new Act has been introduced.