Tuesday, 1 February 2022

Referral by T 1513/17 and T 2719/19 - Priority from an earlier application having different applicants for different states

In the present case (T 1517/17, consolidated with T 2719/19), the patent proprietor filed an appeal to the interlocutory decision of the opposition division revoking its patent. The application on which the patent was granted had originally been filed as an international application under the Patent Cooperation Treaty (the PCT application). It claims priority on the basis of the US provisional patent application (the priority application). The priority application was filed in the name of the two inventors H. Wang and Z. Zhong. The PCT application names the same two persons as inventors and as applicants with designation for the US only. It also names as applicants Alexion Pharmaceuticals, Inc. and the University of Western Ontario as applicants for all designated States except the US. The patent in suit names Alexion Pharmaceuticals, Inc. as patent proprietor and R.P. Rother, H. Wang and Z. Zhong as inventors.

The Board decided to refer the following questions to the Enlarged Board of Appeal:
I. Does the EPC confer jurisdiction on the EPO to determine whether a party validly claims to be a successor in title as referred to in Article 87(1)(b) EPC?
II. If question I is answered in the affirmative [note: which seems likely, in view of it being a substantive requirement in Art.87(1) EPC]
Can a party B validly rely on the priority right claimed in a PCT-application for the purpose of claiming priority rights under Article 87(1) EPC
in the case where
1) a PCT-application designates party A as applicant for the US only and party B as applicant for other designated States, including regional European patent protection and
2) the PCT-application claims priority from an earlier patent application that designates party A as the applicant and
3) the priority claimed in the PCT-application is in compliance with Article 4 of the Paris Convention?
In reason 37, the Board also indicted that "a
 separate question relating to conflict of laws-rules to be applied to a transfer of the priority right is nonetheless not necessary because it is inherently contained in the questions posed and it will be addressed in the considerations of the EBA, as needed."