In November 2000, the need for patent law harmonization going beyond formalities led WIPO's Standing Committee on the Law of Patents (SCP), at its fourth session, to decide to initiate work on harmonization of substantive patent law with a view to concluding a Substantive Patent Law Treaty (SPLT). The SCP agreed to focus initially on a number of issues of direct relevance to the grant of patents, in particular, the definition of prior art, novelty, inventive step/non-obviousness, industrial applicability/utility, the drafting and interpretation of claims and the requirement of sufficient disclosure of the invention.
In May 2001 at its fifth session, the SCP considered a first draft of the SPLT, including draft Regulations and Practice Guidelines. At its sixth session in November 2001, the SCP revised the draft provisions, and agreed on an approach to establishing a seamless interface between the SPLT, the PLT and the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT). It also agreed to create a Working Group on Multiple Invention Disclosures and Complex Applications mandated, in particular, to work on the following issues: (i) unity of invention; (ii) the linking of claims; (iii) the number of claims; (iv) the requirement of "clear and concise" claims and (v) special procedures to treat complex applications, such as mega-applications or large sequence listings.
During the subsequent sessions of the SCP the contents of the draft SPLT were progressively broadened. While the SCP agreed in principle on a number of issues, such as the scope of the SPLT and the right to a patent, some provisions, such as patentable subject matter or the grounds for refusal of a claimed invention, raised concerns about the available flexibility in respect of national policies, recognized under current international treaties.
Following these developments, at the tenth session of the SCP in 2004, the United States of America, Japan and the European Patent Office submitted a joint proposal designed to focus on an initial package of priority items including the definition of prior art, grace period, novelty and inventive step which was, in essence, submitted to the General Assemblies.
As no consensus was reached at the Assemblies, following the informal consultations held in 2005 in Casablanca, Morocco, the Director General submitted recommendations to the SCP. While delegations recognized the importance of the work of the SCP and emphasized that the work on patent law harmonization should progress taking into account the interests of all parties, they did not reach agreement as to the modalities and scope of the future work of the Committee.
As a result, the SPLT negotiations were put on hold in 2006. Further developments within the SCP can be consulted under the “History” of the SCP.