The devil is in the differing-detail for the European Patent Office

Despite that many say that patent law within the European Union is reasonably uniform, there are still strong differences which go to the root of the matter.  In a recent hearing, Ranger Services Ltd’s application (BL O/362/09) of 17 November 2009, the applicant challenged the guiding principle that the European Patent Office (EPO) had applied in evaluating the existing prior art.  The EPO took its decision on the basis that proof had to be “beyond reasonable doubt”.   The applicant claimed that in the UK a patent is a matter of civil law and thus decisions ought to be taken on “the balance of probabilities”, not on “proof beyond reasonable doubt” which applies only in criminal matters.

Regardless of the fact that the evidence was not strong enough even if the “balance of probabilities” had been applied, this is a great case which illustrates how much EU Member States need to do to ensure a uniformed and consistent patent-granting regime.

Post written by Francesca Re Manning, consultant to CAS-IP

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