International Harmonization of Patent Law Gets Serious; PTO to Hold March 21 Hearing

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On Feb. 1, the Patent and Trademark Office issued a new request for patent community input into international harmonization efforts resulting from the work of the so-called “Tegernsee Group” meetings held in Germany over the last couple of years. 78 Fed. Reg. 7,411.

Representatives from the patent offices of Denmark, France, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the European Patent Office have been meeting since July 2011 on issues related to the harmonization of substantive patent law.

According to the Federal Register notice, the group developed a joint questionnaire “to aid in the acquisition and analysis of stakeholder views across jurisdictions on [four] particular issues.” The four issues are:

(1) grace period,

(2) publication of applications,

(3) treatment of conflicting applications, and

(4) prior user rights.

 

Each patent office was tasked with collecting responses to specific questions from members of the patent community in its jurisdiction. The “Tegernsee Experts Group Survey” posted on the PTO's website asks for basic information about the organization submitting answers and then presents 43 questions spread over the four areas. The final section allows the respondent to identify “any [other] areas of patent law … where differences in national law cause problems for you or your client(s).”

The Federal Register notice said the agency would accept separate written comments, but that “completion of the questionnaire is strongly preferred in lieu of separate comments.”

In addition, the PTO announced a public hearing on harmonization to be held on March 21 at the agency's headquarters in Alexandria, Va. Those interested in making a presentation at the hearing have until Feb. 28 to provide to the PTO a final written copy of their proposed testimony. The deadline for responses to the questionnaire or supplemental written comments is also Feb. 28.

By Tony Dutra