Patent harmonisation: a saving grace


Patent harmonisation: a saving grace

In 2011, representatives from seven of the world’s major IP offices convened in Germany with the aim of increasing coordination in patent law. A harmonised grace period was one of the key ideas under consideration. But, as WIPR discovered, it has yet to be agreed.

When representatives of seven patent offices convened in Tegernsee, Germany in 2011, their aim was the harmonisation of the entire patent system. However, attracting the most interest was the harmonisation of a US concept not being used in most other jurisdictions, the grace period.

The European Patent Office (EPO), the Danish Patent and Trademark Office, the French Patent Office, the German Patent and Trademark Office, the Japanese Patent Office (JPO), the UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO) and the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) all joined the discussions.

Put simply, the grace period protects an applicant who files a patent application even if the invention has previously been made public. It has worked in the US but many other major offices, including the EPO and the JPO, are yet to adopt it.

Usually, disclosure of research or details of an invention prior to an application being filed is considered to count against the award of a patent. The finer details of an invention can be considered ‘prior art’ and then need to be assessed to see whether the invention is new and inventive.

EPO, USPTO, patent application, grace period