Just as the year 2000AD once seemed thrillingly exciting, the prospect of changes to the EPC in the year 2000 seemed a promising prospect all those years ago when they were mooted in the 1990s. Now that the year has long past, and the ratification process well and truly set in stone (we hope), we now have the more daunting and, frankly, rather tedious job of dealing with all those changes, of which there are many.
Right: How 2000AD used to look to us (and perhaps how EPC2000 looks to some of us).
To remind readers, EPC2000 was a result of years of discussion having the aim of updating the European Patent Convention, which was agreed in Munich in 1973 and entered into force in 1977 for seven European states. The EPC now has 31 contracting states. The European Patent Office is tasked with the job of examining and granting patents under the Convention and is now a revered, if rather glacial, European body.
On 13 December 2005, Greece became the fifteenth state to deposit its instrument of ratification. Under the agreed ratification process, EPC2000 will as a result enter into force on 13 December 2007 at the latest. By this date, all European Patent Attorneys (and trainee EPAs) will need to be familiar with the new form of the Convention, together with the associated Regulations. Both have changed substantially.
The Convention itself is still in a vaguely recognisable form, with no Article numbers having been changed (thankfully), but with quite a few significant changes thrown in, together with many minor tweaks and cunning paragraph changing traps laid for the unwary.
To make things a bit more complicated, the Regulations currently available from the EPO, which were agreed in 2002, are not actually those that will enter into force in December, contrary to what the EPO says here. The actual Regulations are a different beast altogether. These have been made available here (thank you to Barbara Cookson for pointing this out), but the EPO has not yet seen fit to alter their official site on EPC2000, making the current information there quite misleading. These were only made available at the very end of 2006 after the Administrative Council had finally agreed on them.
The IPKat and his helpers will be digesting these changes over the coming weeks and months, and will be letting his readers know about the various significant changes in the offing for this coming December. In the meantime, he wonders if anyone out there has obtained a copy of the explanatory notes for the latest version of the Regulations, as these would be useful in explaining all those new Rules. If so, please let him know by the usual means.
Merpel, bamboozled by the whole thing, simply says "Splundig vur Thrigg".
Sunday, 7 January 2007
Posted by David at 16:12:00