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EPO: Zoom video conferencing before opposition divisions

The coronavirus pandemic has pushed many of us to use video conferencing platforms in place of face-to-face meetings. At the EPO, oral proceedings before the examining division are now the default but there’s also a pilot program for using video conferencing (ViCo) for oral proceedings involving multiple opponents and/or requiring simultaneous interpretation before the opposition divisions. Whereas Examining Division ViCos use the Skype for Business platform, ViCos held in opposition take place over Zoom.

The EPO recently held a couple of information sessions to highlight the use of the Zoom platform and we have extracted a few points from that session along with the feedback from a ViCo Opposition that Keltie has taken part in.

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Throw them (flowers) against a wall and see if it sticks – Banksy and Bad Faith

Banksy famously claimed that “copyright is for losers”; however, he has been furiously fighting to maintain the EU trade mark (EUTM) registration representing one of his best-known artworks, the ‘Flower Thrower’, despite his apparent disdain for IP rights.

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So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish: the UK withdraws from the Unitary Patent project

On 20 July 2020 the UK made a statement in Parliament that it had withdrawn its ratification of the Agreement on a Unified Patent Court. As noted on the Unified Patent Court website the UK also deposited a withdrawal notification with the Council Secretariat. The UPC Preparatory Committee has stated it will now discuss the consequences of the UK withdrawal and agree a way forward.

Given the UK Government’s view of the CJEU, the statement doesn’t come as a huge surprise though it will presumably be a disappointment for those UPC supporters who were holding out hope that the UK and the other participants would work out some way for the UK to stay in the system.

The UK’s withdrawal from the UPC is, of course, not the only issue to hit the unified patent court project this year as the German Constitutional Court found that the German ratification legislation was unconstitutional.

What comes next for the unitary patent project is unclear. While the system still has its supporters who continue to say that the system could go live as early as [Readers should insert today’s date plus 6-12 months] there are a number of matters that are unclear, namely:

  • Is the UK’s withdrawal notification sufficient? The UPC Agreement does not have any withdrawal provisions but the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties does provide mechanisms for withdrawal from treaties with no withdrawal provisions. Whether the UK’s withdrawal is currently effective may be unclear however and may require amendment of the Protocol to the Agreement on the UPC on provisional application.
  • Where will the London seat of the Central Division be relocated to? Although the provision governing when the UPC Agreement comes into effect does not mention the UK (see Article 89 UPCA), Article 7 which relates to the Court of First Instance does explicitly mention the UK and Annex II to the Agreement details the technical split in cases between London, Paris and Munich. Will the UPC Agreement require amendment to remove the references to London and, if not, will other interested countries (e.g. the Netherlands, Italy) be happy for the system to come into effect without first dealing with this issue?
  • How attractive will the unitary patent system without the UK be for applicants? Also, will the renewal fees for the Unitary Patent need revising in light of the UK’s departure?

The UK announcement is the latest in a line of setbacks for the system. IPcopy remembers the pan-European Intellectual Property Summit way back in December 2012 where the keynote speech suggested that all the stops would be pulled out in order to allow the first unitary patent to be granted in Spring 2014(!) and yet here we are, some 6 years beyond that point, with no real end in sight for the ratification process.

Mark Richardson 8 September 2020

 

EPO: Video conferencing before Opposition Divisions

home-office-5026080_1280IPcopy understands that the EPO’s pilot project for oral proceedings by videoconference before opposition divisions is to receive an upgrade from 14th September 2020 to allow multi party hearings and interpreters.

From 14th September and until at least the end of 2020 oppositions with a single opponent with no interpreters will be conducted under the Skype for Business platform. Oppositions with multiple opponents and/or interpreters will be conducted on the Zoom platform. (more…)

Welcome to the Sunlit Uplands – 10 things about Brexit and IP

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With the Coronavirus pandemic dominating the headlines you might have assumed that Brexit was all finished. However, there’s still plenty to be aware of as far as the UK’s departure from the EU is concerned. So, here are 10 things you need to know about Brexit and Intellectual Property. (more…)

Pandemics, Tsunamis and Space Travel – The Surprising Catalysts of Innovation

med-badr-chemmaoui-ZSPBhokqDMc-unsplashAs a trainee patent attorney, I have been curious about the inventions that may arise as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. There have already been advances in healthcare directly related to the medical emergency, such as improved ventilators and face masks, and there will hopefully be a novel vaccine to end the calamity. However, with the majority of the population having spent the last few months stuck at home under UK lockdown, with little capacity to socialise and an uncertain future ahead, it would come as no surprise if some people have used the time to innovate.

Of course, the current pandemic is certainly not the first time that inventions have emerged from significant events in history. (more…)

The incredible capabilities of 3D printing – showcased in a dozen patents

From ground-breaking technology that could be straight off Star Trek, to applications that might transform our every-day consumer experience, via a few light-hearted detours: here are a dozen patents to illustrate the diversity of 3D printing applications…

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Artificial Intelligence and Patents: AI inventors

Samantha Walker-Smith and I have made a video discussing the issue of AI inventors in light of the DABUS patent applications. [This video is subtitled.]

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Revised Rules of Procedure of the Boards of Appeal

EPO4On 1 January 2020 the new Rules of Procedure of the Boards of Appeal (“RPBA”) came into force, affecting substantially all(1) appeals pending on, or filed after 1 January 2020. The revised rules have three main aims: i) to increase the efficiency of the appeals procedure; ii) to improve predictability for parties; and iii) to harmonise the approach of the Boards (particularly in regard to the admissibility of amendments to a party’s case). (more…)

Disengage the Simulator – G1/19 Oral Proceedings are Imminent

Elton John was of the opinion that sorry seemed to be the hardest word.  That may well be true in general life, but in the European Patent Convention, that hardest word is “technical”. It underpins everything, yet is never defined – apparently, you know it when you see it1. Much of the challenge it provides results from the need to engineer a definition of “technical” which circumvents the exclusions from patentability set out in Article 52(2) EPC. These exclusions are treated as relating to “non-technical” subject matter by the EPO – such subject matter is excluded from patentability but (as set out in Article 52(3) EPC) only to the extent to which a European patent application or European patent relates to such subject-matter or activities “as such” (two more of the harder words in the EPC).

As a result, many inventions as claimed relate to a mix of “technical” and “non-technical” subject matter. The central case in this area is T 0641/00 (Two identities/COMVIK), which indicates that not only can “non-technical” subject matter not contribute to inventive step unless it somehow contributes to technical character, it can even be used to establish the objective technical problem solved by the invention (whether or not it is found in the prior art). This can lead to a higher “step” in arguing for inventive step, and determination over whether specific features are technical can be a key battleground in patent prosecution before the EPO.

This is the context for the referral of G1/19 to the Enlarged Board of Appeal. This referral was made by the Technical Board of Appeal in T 0489/14, which is an appeal from the decision to refuse EP1546948 – the best place to find all the documents for this case is the European Patent Register entry for EP1546948, including a large number of amicus briefs. (more…)