Tuesday, 18 April 2017

J 23/14 - Pendency revisited: the 6-month period for paying the renewal fee with an additional fee


Just after the Guidelines explicitly indicated that a patent application is still pending for the purpose of filing a divisional until the expiry of the 6-month period for paying the renewal fee (even if that fee is not paid), T 1402/13 ruled that the deemed withdrawal of a patent application occured if the renewal fee was not paid at the due date - and that the patent application was thus not pending in the 6-month period if the fees were ultimately not paid (see our earlier blog). Shortly after T 1402/13, R.51(2) was amended (per 1/1/2017) for clarification by addition of a last sentence "The legal consequence laid down in Article 86, paragraph 1, shall ensue upon expiry of the six-month period." The current J-decision addresses the topic again, and refers to the EPC1973 situation, the explanatory notes of EPC2000's drafting, the distinguishing T 1402/14, R.51(2) as amended per 1/1/2017, and EPO form 2522, which was sent to the party in the present case and clearly states that a patent application is deemed withdrawn only upon expiry of the six-month grace period for paying the renewal fee with additional fee. This J-decision concludes as follows: Notwithstanding the wording of Article 86(1) EPC 2000 and Rule 51 EPC (in the version in force until 31 December 2016), for the sake of the protection of legitimate expectations of the users of the European patent system, the Board holds that a patent application is deemed to be withdrawn only upon expiry of the six-month grace period for paying the renewal fee with additional fee under Rule 51(2) EPC, in accordance with the jurisprudence that prevailed before decision T 1402/13. The current decision addresses whether the loss of rights occured due to the missing of a period -as that is a prerequisite for re-establishment-, when the period that led to the loss of rights expired, and also when the removal of the cause of non-compliance occured.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

T 1543/12 - Multiple ranges in claim, are all combinations supported?

Many independent combinations are possible

Claim 1 in this opposition comprises a number of ranges. Individually, each of the ranges is supported by the application, but there may be combinations of the ranges that are not. Is such a claim properly supported over its entire width? The board thinks it is.  
Claim 1 in the pending requests contained a number of ranges:
1. A method for preparing a dry granulated product containing L-lysine and having the following composition:
L-lysine content in solid matter: 40 to 85% by weight equivalent ratio of anion/L-lysine 0.68 to 0.95 moisture content: 5% by weight or less (...)
Reasons for the Decision
(...)
4. Insufficiency of disclosure (Article 100(b) EPC)
4.1 The Appellant objected that the subject-matter of claim 1 could not be carried out over the whole range claimed. The claimed process is directed to the preparation of products covering the whole range of claimed lysine contents. However, it was not possible to produce lysine products having a lysine content of 85% and an equivalent ratio of more than 0.71, although an equivalent ratio of 0.68 to 0.95 was claimed.
4.2 According to Article 100(b) EPC, the European patent must disclose the invention in a manner sufficiently clear and complete for it to be carried out by the skilled person.
4.3 In the present case the process according to claim 1 is characterized to produce a L-lysine product. This product is inter alia characterized by a moisture content up to 5% by weight, of a L-lysine content in the final product of 40 to 85% by weight and an equivalent ratio of anion/L-lysine of 0.68 to 0.95. Therefore, any L-lysine fulfilling these three parameters is a product according to the invention. In order to be carried out over the whole range claimed, it is only necessary that each value within the claimed ranges can be achieved individually. It is, however, not a requirement of Article 83 EPC, that each and every possible combination of all individual limiting values within the claimed ranges can be achieved. The example given by the Appellant is technically impossible, since a product comprising 85% by weight of L-lysine can only comprise 15% by weight of an anion forming compound, which in the present case is hydrochloric or sulfuric acid. It follows that depending on the molecular weight of the acid used in the process the ratio of anion/L-lysine can reach only certain theoretical values within the claimed range. The skilled person knows, that both the L-lysine content in the final product and the achievable ratio of anion/L-lysine are dependent on each other and cannot vary independently over the whole range of values claimed for each of these two parameters.
4.4 Therefore, the Board concludes that the European patent discloses the invention in a manner sufficiently clear and complete for it to be carried out by a skilled person in the sense of Article 83 EPC.
(...)
This decision T 1543/12 (pdf) has European Case Law Identifier:  ECLI:EP:BA:2016:T154312.20160419. The file wrapper can be found here. Photo by Bill Ferngren (Braite), via PixaBay under a CC0  license (no changes made).

Friday, 7 April 2017

T 1750/14 - New applicant, new representative & upcoming oral proceedings


In the examination case under appeal, the then applicant's representative requested approximately 5 weeks before the scheduled oral proceedings the postponement of the oral proceedings and the postponement of the final date for making written submissions ("final date") on the grounds that he had been informed that the present application had been transferred from the then registered applicant to another applicant, and that he did not know whether he was to remain the representative. This request was refused by the examining division as it allegedly did not constitute a serious ground within the meaning of OJ EPO 1/2009, 68, point 2.3. The applicant appeals, and argues that his right to be heard was violated and that the decision was not sufficiently substantiated.

In considering the appeal, the board considers the request for the postponement of the date of oral proceedings to be distinct from the request for the postponement of the final date, and concludes that 
the examination division failed to sufficiently substantiate in its decision why the final date could not be postponed. The applicant's main request is thus held allowable.

There are interesting deliberations in this case. Does the situation indeed qualify as a serious ground as alleged by the appellant, even though it is not explicitly mentioned in  OJ EPO 1/2009, 68, point 2.3? Did the examination division have discretionary power in the first place to postpone the final date in view of Rule 116(1) EPC stipulating that Rule 132 shall not apply? And can the date of oral proceedings indeed be postponed independently from the final date or not?

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

T 579/16 - Double identity


This appeal is against a decision of the opposition division by which an opposition was deemed non-admissible. In the present case case, the form 2300 indicated "BYK-Chemie GmbH" as opponent, whereas the attached document containing the indication of facts, evidence and arguments mentioned "Einsprechende: BASF Coatings GmbH" just before the heading "EINSPRUCHSBEGRÜNDUNG".

Due to this seemingly contradictory information, the opposition division held the identity of the opponent not to be sufficiently established before expiry of the opposition period, and as a consequence the opposition inadmissible.

In the appeal, the opponent now as appellant essentially argues that since the tick box for 'Multiple opponents' in form 2300 was not checked and the address specified in form 2300 corresponds to that of BYK-Chemie, it was clear that BYK-Chemie was intended to be the opponent and that the mentioning of BASF in the attached document was essentially an clerical error.

However, the board of appeal concurs with the opposition division with respect to the lack of clear identification of the opponent, but does hold the mentioning of BASF to be correctable under Rule 139 EPC first sentence, as requested by the appellant/opponent in both proceedings but for the first time requested after the expiry of the opposition period.

Of interest here is how the board deals with the application of the criteria summarized by G 1/12 whether such a request is allowable, and in particular, whether the request for correction in this particular case was filed "without delay".

Friday, 31 March 2017

T 545/08: a lecture: internet disclosures and balance of probabilties


Subject of this appeal is the date of public availability of an internet disclosure and whether the Examining Division should have allowed evidence with respect to the publication date of this disclosure into the proceedings. Although the Board describes somewhere in its decision that the Boards of Appeal of have a huge backlog, this Board spent quite some time on writing a nice "lesson" on determining the date of availability to the public of internet disclosures and how the balance of probabilities must be applied in those cases. Of course, the Board has to provide a well-reasoned decision - somehow I have the feeling that the lesson is also written for the Examining Division because it seems that the Board was not completely happy with their work.

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

T 737/11 - Decision according to the state of the file leaves it to speculate on the applicable reasons by mosaicking various objections and arguments


In examination proceedings, the applicant requested an appealable decision according to the state of the file. The Examining Division issued the decision with its grounds as follows: "In the communication(s) dated 22.07.2010, 25.10.2010 the applicant was informed that the application does not meet the requirements of the European Patent Convention. The applicant was also informed of the reasons therein. The applicant filed no comments or amendments in reply to the latest communication but requested a decision according to the state of the file by a letter received in due time on 08.11.2010. The application must therefore be refused."  The decision does not mention the oral proceedings that were held. The communications referred to different requests.

The Board concludes that in the present case considerable uncertainty exists as to the precise reasons on which the contested decision was based. The written decision leaves it to the appellant and the Board to speculate on the applicable reasons by mosaicking various objections and arguments from two communications and possibly other elements of the file, such as the minutes of the oral proceedings - to which the written decision does not even refer. It is therefore not reasoned within the meaning of Rule 111(2) EPC. This amounts to a substantial procedural violation according to Rule 103(1)(a) EPC and to a fundamental deficiency according to Article 11 RPBA

Monday, 27 March 2017

T 577/11 Entitlement to priority; transfer of priority right

In this case, the Board goes very deep into the issue of the entitlement to claim priority by a successor in title. In particular: when does the actual transfer need to take place? Could the EPO recognize a retroactive transfer if a national law would allow that?
The answer: strict - the actual transfer must have been completed before the priority is claimed. 

Catchword:

1. Continuation of the appeal proceedings after first oral proceedings before the board with the scheduling of second oral proceedings is not, as such, a reason for admitting new submissions filed after the first oral proceedings (see Reasons, point 2.3).

2. If the debate on a particular topic had been closed without announcement of a decision on the matter, the board has discretion over whether or not it re-opens the debate and over the extent to which it does so (see Reasons, point 3.1).

3. For a claimed priority to be valid pursuant to Article 87(1) EPC 1973, the applicant of a subsequent application claiming priority from an earlier application (priority application) who is not the person who filed the priority application must, when the subsequent application is filed, be that person's successor in title in respect of the priority application or of the right to claim priority. A succession in title that occurs after the filing date of the subsequent application is not sufficient to comply with the requirements of Article 87(1) EPC 1973 (see Reasons, point 6.5).

4. Where the applicant of the priority application and the applicant of the subsequent application contractually agree that (only) economic ownership ("economische eigendom" under Dutch law) of the priority application and the right to claim its priority is to be transferred to the subsequent applicant, this is not sufficient to consider the latter a successor in title within the meaning of Article 87(1) EPC 1973 (see Reasons, point 6.6.2).

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