Just like the Eurovision Song Contest before it, the European Patent Office is soon to extend its boundaries beyond Europe and into northern Africa. Following an announcement that a validation agreement between the European Patent Office (EPO) and Morocco will come into force on 1st March, patents granted by the EPO will be able to be validated in Morocco. There is the likelihood that other countries will follow suit.
It will still be a few years before the first European patent is validated in Morocco, since it will only be possible to validate patents that result from applications which are filed with the EPO after the agreement comes into force.
The first European patent applications filed in June 1978 could only be used to obtain protection in eight countries – the original member states. Since then, many other countries have joined the European Patent Convention (EPC). This means that today you can file a single European patent application and pay a single designation fee, and this can allow you to obtain protection in thirty eight European counties.
Over the last 20 years, a number of countries have become Extension States. These countries were not member states of the EPC, and are therefore not covered by the single designation fee. However, by payment of an additional extension fee for any Extension States in which you are interested, you have the opportunity to extend your European patent, once granted by the EPO, to an Extension State.
Many countries have used the Extension State option as a stepping stone to becoming member states of the EPC, with eight former Extension States having now joined the EPC proper. Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro are the only two current Extension States.
From 1st March 2015 when the validation agreement between the EPO and Morocco comes into force, it will become possible to also extend your European patent to Morocco. A European patent that is validated in Morocco in this way will have the same effect as a national Moroccan patent granted by the Moroccan Patent Office.
The validation agreement with Morocco was signed in December 2010. This may give us some clue as to when we can expect to be able to validate a European patent in other countries. Last year, Tunisia signed a validation agreement with the EPO which, when ratified, will allow European Patents to be validated in Tunisia. In 2013, Moldova signed a validation agreement with the EPO, which will come into force once implementing law has been passed in Moldova.
This article is for general information only. Its content is not a statement of the law on any subject and does not constitute advice. Please contact Reddie & Grose LLP for advice before taking any action in reliance on it.