New EPO’s amendments relating to unity of invention

Authors: Dr. Jacekas Antulis, Associated Partner, Head of the Patent Division at METIDA, Birute Dauderiene, Patent Attorney at METIDA

PaperNew EPO’s amendments will simplify the application system and ease the lot of the inventors.

Currently, according to the European Patent Convention Rule 164, if a European regional phase application, the so-called Euro-PCT application, does not meet the requirement of unity of invention, the European Patent Office (EPO) performs a search on a selected part of the invention. The applicant cannot ask for the suplementary search having in mind that it was conducted in the course of the international application. Meanwhile, if the directly filed European patent application does not comply with requirement of unity of invention, the applicant can request the supplementary search for the part of the invention that has not received the search. After this procedure, the applicant is given an opportunity to change their invention’s claim or file divisional applications.

The current arrangements are unfair in respect to the applicants of international applications, since they cannot request the supplementary search for an additional fee and only have the option to file the divisional application which is much more expensive than the search.

From 1st November, 2014 the amended Rule 164 by the EPO will come into force which will give the applicant an opportunity to perform the supplementary search on patent applications that lack unity of invention and are the European regional phase applications i.e. filed after the international application filing date. This change will be valid for Euro-PCT patent applications filed from 1st November, 2014. The partial patent search will be conducted first, after which the applicant will be able to submit a request for the supplementary search within two months.

The amended Rule 164 will create a much more flexible Euro-PCT system allowing the inventors to draw up the complete search on the patent application which lack unity of invention and decide what level of regional or national applications they should file.

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