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Norway > Legal Developments > Law firm and leading lawyer rankings

Editorial

New Patent Office Act to enter into effect on 1st January 2013

A new Act on the Patent Office and Industrial Property Rights Appeals Commission (the Patent Office Act) will be enacted and come into effect on 1st January 2013. The current Act on the Industrial Property Protection Board was enacted in 1910, and time for a complete reform had come.

The new Act will govern the way in which the Norwegian Patent Office will be organised and the way in which it will operate. Here are the main novelties:

1.       Whereas today the Director of the Patent Office is appointed for an indefinite period of time (and can stay in office until the retirement age of 70 years), under the new act the appointment will be for 6 years, and only one renewal will be allowed.

2.       An independent body, the Appeals Commission, will replace the Second Division of the Patent Office. It will decide appeals against all decisions of the Patent Office..

3.       At all stages of a prosecution or an appeal, the Patent Office or the Appeals Commission shall assess on its own initiative and decide if it is useful to summon the parties to an oral hearing or meeting. If a party who has a reason for it requests a meeting or a hearing, the Patent Office or the Appeals Commission are to grant the request, provided that a responsible conduction of business allows for it.

4.       In order to make administrative re-examinations of industrial rights a more attractive alternative to litigation in the courts, the Patent Office and the Appeals Commission will have the power to award costs.

Comment
So, can we expect that there will be more administrative re-examinations? The number of administrative re-examinations (of patents) has been very small since the procedure became available in 2008. Parties that wish to challenge patents appear to prefer resorting to the courts. One of the reason is probably the time scale of re-examinations, which sometimes take two years in the first instance, and then up to a year on appeal. The availability of cost awards may make the procedure more attractive, but on balance probably not attractive enough.

The fact that hearings will become more available will have a marginal impact, since it appears that more means will not be made available to the Patent Office and the Appeals Commission to hold hearings. More importantly, it is hard to see how an increase of the total time required for a prosecution/opposition/re-examination and any subsequent appeals can be avoided if hearings are to be scheduled and held, even if they were brief.

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