Geneva, 26 May 2003
May 22, 2003
Member states of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) continued discussions on further global harmonization of substantive patent law. The Standing Committee on the Law of Patents (SCP) made progress in reviewing provisions of the draft Substantive Patent Law Treaty (SPLT) which aims to simplify, streamline and achieve greater convergence among national law and practice in the examination and grant of patents. The Committee, which met in Geneva from May 12 to 16, 2003, was attended by representatives from 86 member states, five intergovernmental organizations and 23 non-governmental organizations.
The draft SPLT covers a number of basic legal principles that govern the grant and the validity of patents in different countries of the world, such as definition of prior art, novelty, inventive step (non-obviousness), industrial applicability (utility), sufficiency of disclosure and the structure and interpretation of claims.
The SCP made further headway in establishing a common understanding on several issues arising from differences that exist among patent systems. Provisional agreement was reached on a number of provisions on the understanding that any delegation could re-open discussions on these matters at any time in the future. For example, progress was made in respect of the introduction of a grace period in the draft SPLT. A grace period refers to a specified period of time preceding the filing date of a patent application during which the disclosure of the invention, under certain circumstances, does not affect its patentibility. On a number of other subjects, however, important differences in patent systems remain and require further reflection. One such issue relates to the extent to which the SPLT should allow contracting parties to retain divergent laws and practices, bearing in mind that the objective of the draft treaty is to harmonize patent law and practice. Proposals relating to the protection of public health, genetic resources, traditional knowledge and a number of other public policy issues, which the SCP agreed to include in the draft Treaty at its December 2002 meeting, were not discussed (see Update 180/2002).
The next session of the SCP is tentatively scheduled to take place in the first half of 2004.
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