What does “grace period” on patents mean? Does it exist in the EU?

Grace period is a specific period of time preceding the filing of a patent application, during which certain types of disclosures of the invention (for which the patent application is filed) do not destroy its novelty.

In general, in order for an invention to be patentable, the novelty criterion has to be fulfilled, that is to say, the invention should not be disclosed to the public before the patent application is filed.

What is a supplementary protection certificate (SPC)?

A supplementary protection certificate extends the period of effective protection for patents on new medical products for which an authorisation to be placed on the market is required.

A supplementary protection certificate serves as a compensation for the investments put into research for the period that elapses between the filing of a patent application for a new medicinal product and the obtention of an authorisation to place such a product on the market.

In the European Union, a supplementary protection certificate can be granted under the following conditions:

Is there legal protection for the patent applicant before a patent is granted?

According to the European Patent Convention, a patent application filed within the EPO provisionally confers from the date of its publication the same rights which a national patent would confer once granted in the designated countries. These are the legal rights which the national law of the designated countries may confer upon the proprietor of a patent on an invention (product or process) when granted. For example, this provisional protection can refer to what acts of third parties constitute infringement of the patent and to the remedies available in respect of infringement.

What does the expression “patent pending” mean?

The meaning of the expression “Patent Pending” varies depending on the national law of each country. However, in principle this term is used in reference to:

-          the legal status of a patent application - “notice given (by the relevant Intellectual property office) that an application for a patent has been filed and that legal protection (including retroactive rights) may be forthcoming” – source: EPO

What's the difference between the inventor, the applicant and the owner in a patent?

The inventor is the creator of the invention. In the EU this term is defined by each member state’s legislation. In general, in order for one to be considered an inventor, it is acknowledged that a certain level of contribution to the development of the creative elements of an invention (technical creativity) must be met. Inventors are always private individuals and are always entitled to be designated on the patent, regardless of who files the application.

What are the differences between the Unitary patent and the “classical” European patent?

Compared to the “classical” European patent which becomes a bundle of national patents validated in each Member State where protection is requested, the Unitary patent will give its holder a unique patent protection – uniform scope and equal effect of protection -  in 26 Member States of the European Union. For the applicants, this entails no further need for national validation, and offers a single annuity, one place to register transfers and licencesand after grant, and no further translation requirements.

Does the unitary patent replace the existing systems of patent protection?

No. The unitary patent will co-exist with national patents and with classic European patents (i.e. without unitary effect) as a third option for companies or inventors seeking patent protection in Europe. Patent applicants remain free to choose between national patents, classical European patents and unitary patents. They can also use a combination, such as:

What is the European patent with unitary effect?

The Unitary patent is a single European patent with unitary effect in the 26 EU Member States which have engaged in an enhanced cooperation to this effect. The unitary patent is granted by the EPO under the rules and procedures of the European Patent Convention.  In order to obtain a unitary effect, patent holders need to request the unitary effect at the European Patent Office (EPO) within one month of the date of publication of the patent grant in the European Patent Bulletin.