Member states Discuss Ways to Further Harmonize Patent Law

Geneva, May 18, 2004
Press Updates UPD/2004/225

Member states of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) met in Geneva from May 10 to 14, 2004, to discuss future directions for international harmonization of substantive patent law and to review provisions of a draft Substantive Patent Law Treaty (SPLT). The Standing Committee on the Law of Patents (SCP) was attended by representatives from 71 member states, 7 intergovernmental organizations and 27 non-governmental organizations.

The draft SPLT covers a range of basic legal principles that govern the grant and validity of patents in different countries, such as the criteria for assessing whether an invention is novel and involves an inventive step, whether it is industrially applicable (or has utility) and whether it is sufficiently described in the patent application concerned, and how patent claims should be drafted and interpreted. It aims to simplify, streamline and achieve greater convergence among national and regional patent laws and practices.

The SCP considered whether discussions should at this stage be limited to a number of provisions dealing with the definition of prior art, grace period, novelty and inventive step (non-obviousness) or whether talks should cover the current draft SPLT as a whole and consider issues such as disclosure of the origin of genetic resources and traditional knowledge, public health and exceptions to patentability criteria. The SCP did not reach agreement as to the scope of its future work but agreed to continue discussion of the existing draft SPLT text during the present session.

A number of draft provisions, such as the one relating to the fact that information made available to the public in any form shall form part of the prior art, which is central to the patent examination process, were accepted on the understanding that any delegation could re-open discussion of them in the future. Discussions brought about greater mutual understanding and movement towards agreement on a number of issues, such as the introduction of a grace period, the prior art effect of international applications under the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) that are filed before but published after the application under consideration, and the definition of novelty. On a number of other issues, however, there are still important differences of approach among delegations and further reflection is required.

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