21 August 2017

Patent Revocation FAQ

Jane Lambert

What is meant by "Revocation"?

Revocation means removing a granted patent from the register of patents and cancelling the monopoly of the invention that the patent conferred.

What does that mean in practice?

It means that anyone can make, sell, import or keep your invention without asking your permission. Any action you may bring for the infringement of your patent will fail. You may no longer be entitled to any licence fees in respect of your patent.

Do I get any money back from the EPO or IPO?

Probably not.  It's one of the risks that you take when you apply for a patent.

Who can revoke my patent?

The European Patent Office can revoke a European patent in all the countries for which it is granted if someone opposes the grant under art 99 of the European Patent Convention within the first 9 months. The Intellectual Property Office, the Patents Court or IPEC (Intellectual Property Enterprise Court) can revoke a European as well as UK patent at any time under s.72  of the Patents Act 1977. The Comptroller (chief executive of the IPO) can also revoke such a patent under s.73.

On what Grounds can my Patent be revoked?

Essentially, the patent should never have been granted.

In the case of a European patent, art 100 EPC sets out the following grounds:
"(a) the subject-matter of the European patent is not patentable under Articles 52to 57;
(b) the European patent does not disclose the invention in a manner sufficiently clear and complete for it to be carried out by a person skilled in the art;
(c) the subject-matter of the European patent extends beyond the content of the application as filed, or, if the patent was granted on a divisional application or on a new application filed under Article 61, beyond the content of the earlier application as filed."
The grounds under s.72 are somewhat wider:
"(a) the invention is not a patentable invention;
(b) that the patent was granted to a person who was not entitled to be granted that patent;
(c) the specification of the patent does not disclose the invention clearly enough and completely enough for it to be performed by a person skilled in the art;
(d) the matter disclosed in the specification of the patent extends beyond that disclosed in the application for the patent, as filed, or, if the patent was granted on a new application filed under section 8(3), 12 or 37(4) above or as mentioned in section 15(9) above, in the earlier application, as filed;
(e) the protection conferred by the patent has been extended by an amendment which should not have been allowed."
The Comptroller's powers under s.73 arise when an invention was anticipated by an unpublished patent application or where an examiner finds that a patent was invalid under s.74A and his or her opinion is not successfully challenged.

How can a Granted Patent not be a Patentable Invention?

Let me give you just one example.

As you know an invention must be new. An invention is new if it does not form part of the state of the art. The examiner checks the databases and publications that are available to him or her and publishes details of the invention on the office's website and journal. However, much of the world's new technical literature is now in Japanese, Korean or Mandarin, none of which is widely understood here. There is a risk that the examiner will miss relevant prior art written in one of those languages when an application for a patent is filed. If that prior art finally comes to light it can invalidate the patent.

Can I still rely on Confidentiality, Design Rights or other IPR if my Patent is revoked?

Probably not.  Your specification is supposed to disclose your invention in a manner which is clear enough and complete enough for the invention to be performed by a person skilled in the art.  If it doesn't do that your patent would probably be void for insufficiency.  One of the less publicized passages of Mr Justice Whitford's judgment in Catnic Components Ltd. v. Hill & Smith Ltd. [1982] R.P.C. 183 is to the effect that you dedicate any copyrights or nowadays design rights in design drawings to the public when you apply for a patent.

What about Costs?

It depends on where the proceedings take place.

Costs in the EPO are usually borne by the parties themselves though the rules do provide for apportionment.

The losing party in the IPO usually contributes a few thousand pounds to the successful party on a fixed scale.

That is also the case in IPEC though the amounts awarded are usually much greater.

Costs in the Patents Court can be many hundreds of thousands of pounds.  Revocations are usually brought by way of counterclaim in infringement proceedings or vice versa.  According to Taylor Wessing, the costs of a typical patent action are between £200,000 and £1 million.

What can I do about it?

Take the best possible specialist advice when choosing the optimum legal protection for your intellectual assets, applying for such protection, enforcing and defending it. Such advice will not come cheap so it is important to arrange before-the-event insurance or other funding for those expenses. Obtaining IP protection without the means of enforcing it is as risky as travelling to North America without accident and medical insurance.

Further Information

Should anyone wish to discuss this article or patent litigation in general, call me during office hours on +44 (0)20 7404 5252 or send me a message through my contact form.