A Common Patent Processing Manual for the Andean Region
Industrial property offices in Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela have taken an important step toward the harmonization of patent laws in the Andean region by adopting a common manual on the processing of patent applications. The Andean Patent Manual was published in December 2004. This is an excellent example of productive, regional cooperation on patent harmonization. The manual goes further than the adoption of a common patent law, in that it is based on agreement on the interpretation and practical application of the law.
The Manual is the outcome of a meticulous process of consensus building between the industrial property offices of the five Andean countries over a four year period. In 2000, at the request of the Andean Community Secretariat, WIPO, together with the European Patent Office (EPO) and with the contribution of the Mexican Industrial Property Institute, began a regional consultation process, which led to a first draft. While consideration was given to international legislative developments, the manual was drafted strictly according to the Andean law in force (Decision 486) and following the regional case-law practice, particularly from the Andean Tribunal Court of Justice, the sole body with a mandate to interpret the Andean regional legislation.
Collaboration between all parties was exemplary. The group of experts started with a blank sheet and built the manual from scratch. They first agreed on the structure of the manual, then moved forward step-by-step. All participants proved willing to adjust to interpretations of the law made by the other countries involved in the process. The resulting manual remains open to modification as the offices gain experience working with the manual.
The manual is a non-binding instrument. But some of the industrial property offices will decide in the near future on the way to make the manual mandatory, namely through a decree, instructions or a regulation. The manual is mainly addressed to patent examiners and aims to help harmonize practices and procedures for patent examination among the offices. It will be a useful resource for training new patent examiners as it sets out a detailed approach to the examination of patent applications. It contains easy-to-read flow charts of each step in the examination process; the applicable law is explained along with real examples; model letters and forms are provided; and the guidelines are clear and easy to follow.
WIPO’s contribution to this successful project is a good example of the Economic Development Sector’s work with developing countries. The resulting manual should have a positive impact on the region’s patent offices and users alike.
The manual is available from the industrial property offices in any of the five countries.