海外知识产权动态信息 > 如果巴西专利90天授权,你准备好了吗?(双语)

如果巴西专利90天授权,你准备好了吗?(双语)
2017-11-09 10:23:42 阅读

作者:Gary Hnath、Cristiane Manzueto、José Roberto、张婧

中文整理:宋蓓蓓、曹越

编者按

近日,巴西政府就其一项致力于解决专利审查积压问题的“特别方案”(草案)向公众征求了意见。依据该草案,巴西专利商标局(BPTO)将通过一项简易程序快速授权未经实审的专利申请(不包括药品专利申请和母案已审的分案申请)。有消息称,巴西拟在2020年前不经实审快速授权23万件待审专利,解决其专利审查积压难题。

众所周知,巴西一直是中国企业获取专利权最困难的国家之一,其动辄8-10年的专利审查速度往往让中国企业叫苦不迭、力不从心!因而,此次“特别方案”在草案征求意见阶段便得到了广泛关注。

巴西专利,似乎离我们越来越近,这是真的吗?中国企业准备好了吗?“智南针网”致力于打造有技术深度的海外知识产权信息平台,邀请巴西资深律师针对中国企业关注的重点内容深度解读。 

美国专利商标局(USPTO)和中国国家知识产权局(SIPO)的专利审查周期平均约为三年,而在巴西专利商标局(BPTO),你却需要约10年才能获得专利授权证书!如此冗长的专利审查周期极大地影响了巴西的经济发展与技术进步。

 

近年来,BPTO开展了一些快速审查项目加速在巴西获得专利授权的过程,例如:绿色专利、新药发明、专利审查高速路(PPH),科研(S&T)院所,以及中小企业(S&Ms)等。但是,这些项目都没有显著地减少BPTO的审查积压。去年6月,依据BPTO发布的信息,等待BPTO审批的专利申请高达231,184件之多!

BPTO在过去几年雇佣了大量的专利审查员(目前BPTO有326名专利审查员)并且大幅提高审查工作量:2015年每个巴西审查员全年做出35个结案,2016年增长到每人45个结案,2017年预期增长到每人55个结案。尽管审查员们尽职工作,但是数据表明他们的努力距离解决如此之高的专利申请积压仍相去甚远。依据BPTO公布的数据,如果维持当前的积压频率、审查员数量与工作效率,至2029年巴西的待审专利将积压至令人担忧的349,080件之多!假设审查员工作效率加倍达到每人每年完成110项结案,至2029年的待审专利仍将增长至189,312件,积压也不会消除。根据BPTO的研究表明,即使专利审查员的数量翻番,估计仍需八年左右时间方能消除积压。由此不难看出形势的严峻。

 

解决积压迫在眉睫。因此,BPTO试图建立一个加快专利申请授权的程序,致力于通过一个特殊且临时性的快速审查方案来解决积压问题。依据这一方案,快速审查是可以选择的并且不会适用于在提案规定生效之后才提交的申请

 

2017年8月,巴西发展、工业与对外贸易部(Ministry of Industry and Foreign Trade and Services,MDIC)和BPTO提出一项专利申请简单授权的“快速审查方案”草案,并于2017年8月21日前公开征求意见。

01

什么是“快速审查方案”?

 

“快速审查方案”草案建议了一个简易流程,根据该草案的规定,如果满足一定的条件,那么该巴西专利申请将无需实质审查在90天内即可被授予专利权。

02

什么样的专利申请能够“快速审查”?

 

依据当前的“快速审查方案”草案,满足如下条件可以获得进入快速审查程序的“资格许可通知书”:

 

(1)不得是增补证书申请[1]、分案申请或医药产品及生产方法的专利申请(仍需实质审查);
(2)专利申请或进入PCT国家阶段的请求需在该方案正式发布日之前提交
(3)专利申请在该方案正式发布日已经公开,或在方案发布日后30天之内提交了公开请求
(4)在该方案正式发布后的30天之内应当递交专利实审请求
(5)按时支付年费无拖欠;
(6)BPTO尚未发布关于此专利申请的技术意见报告。

 

如果申请人不希望专利申请不经实质审查即被快速授权,根据草案的规定,申请人在告知其专利申请进入快速审查程序的“资格许可通知书”公布后的90天之内可以选择不参与该快速程序。

 

除此之外,需要注意的是,任何已经进入第三方观察或在“资格许可通知书”公布90天之内进入第三方观察的专利申请将不能进入快速审查程序。(注:“第三方观察”是指任何第三方在专利审查过程中,可以提交证据或法律主张向专利审查员证明该申请不应该被授予专利权。巴西1996年后已不设正式的专利申请抗议时限和程序。目前,任何第三方都可以在专利申请被审查之前提交“观察”)

03

快速授权的专利内容是怎样的?

 

根据当前“快速审查方案”草案,在快速程序下专利申请将按照BPTO首次公开的内容获得授权。

04

快速授权≠降低专利标准

 

依照简化程序授权的专利同样可能受到行政无效程序或司法无效诉讼的挑战。快速授权并不意味着改变了巴西对可专利性、新颖性 (novelty)、创造性 (inventiveness)、工业实用性 (industrial applicability) 的根本要求。例如,巴西专利法第十条和十八条对可专利性的规定依然有效(发现,科学理论,数学方法,计算机程序本身,自然生物的部分或全部等不属于可授予专利权的主体)。虽然快速程序下授权时不对这些根本要求进行实质审查,但是实际不符合专利授权条件的专利可以在后续程序中被无效。

 

“快速审查方案”草案已于今年8月向公众征求意见,并于8月21日截止。许多巴西及全球知识产权从业者、企业就此重要问题提交了他们的意见。BPTO最近发布了一份672页的文件,包含了所有按规定时间提交的意见。从目前的情况来看,该草案仍然争议较大,巴西知识产权协会(ABPI)、巴西工业协会(ABAPI)、国际商会(国际性商务组织,https://iccwbo.org)以及其他一些组织对提案的部分方面提出了批评。主要意见建议聚焦在以下几个方面(这些意见建议被不同主体反复提及): 

01

关于发文主体

 

新规不应由BPTO发布。一些评论认为新规与巴西现行《工业产权法》部分法条有所冲突,BPTO不能在没有巴西国会授权的情况下对法条规定进行修改,即使只是作为对极少数案件的特殊处理,因此认为新规应当得到巴西国会的批准[2]。

02

关于适用范围

 

一些建议者提议BPTO只允许在某个特定日期(建议在2007年12月31日至2017年7月31日之间)之前提交的专利申请适用快速审查程序,以避免有人只是为了无需实质审查即可获得专利授权的目的提交新的专利申请。

03

关于时间规定

 

目前的提案对(1)决定不参与(即90天之内主动选择不参与快速程序);(2)提交第三方观察(即在“资格许可通知书”公布90天之内提出第三方观察,以防止专利申请进入快速审查程序)和(3)请求对专利申请进行审查(即在方案正式发布后的30天之内递交专利实审请求,以符合进入快速程序条件)的时间规定有重叠。为使申请人及其竞争方有时间分析情况,建议针对上述三类不同行为采用不同时间规定。

04

关于授权数量

 

对专利授予数量应当有所限制,以使竞争方能够更好地监测专利的发布。

05

关于授权内容

 

BPTO应当考虑申请人正当的修正请求,以及其他国家对涵盖相同权利主张的专利申请做出的决定,而非简单地授权如所公开的专利。比如,如果专利申请涵盖完全相同的权利主张,且外国主管机构已完成实质审查并做出决定, 那么BPTO就不应简单地按公开的专利申请进行授权,而是应该给申请人一个请求按照外国授权文本修改的机会(即体现在外国实质审查阶段做出的修改)。实际操作中可要求申请人提供外国决定的原件和葡萄牙语的翻译件。

 

目前,BPTO尚未对所有提交的建议给予全部研究和反馈。从目前的公众意见来看,当前的草案一些方面仍在商榷,尚有不成熟之处。这些意见建议在方案的下一稿或者终稿中是否会得以体现尚是未知数。

 

“快速审查方案”是否以及何时会生效也未有定数。巴西知识产权协会(ABPI)最近的会议中,BPTO在会谈中暗示希望能从2018年1月开始执行,但这并非官方消息。

 

尽管新规未见得将会最终实施,或者其中规定仍将被修改,但是,巴西政府已表明有意愿采用激进的措施来消除当前的积压。无论最终采用何种措施或规则,中国企业都可能面临如下机遇和挑战:

 

一是对于一直以来希望在巴西获取专利权却哀叹于其较长审查周期的中国企业而言,将有可能解决长久以来难以攻克的难题,前提是对巴西快速审查新规持续关注、深入理解并能够充分运用。

 

二是新规可能催生大量的巴西专利权,对在巴西生产经营的中国企业造成一定困扰。监控产业或竞争对手专利情况将变得更加艰难,专利丛林现象将导致稍有不慎便可能踩到专利地雷,而后通过行政或司法程序无效专利将可能耗费大量人力物力。

 

基于当前草案中提出的方向和内容,对中国企业提出如下建议:

01

持续关注新规进展

 

“快速审查方案”中的规定仍然有很大可能被修改,最终的规则也可能与当前草案中有所不同,建议中国企业应当对新规发展保持密切关注。如果后续仍有针对规则广泛征求意见,建议中国企业积极反馈建议,参与规则制定。

02

深度考虑策略选择

 

通过简易程序有助于快速获得专利权,而经过实质审查的专利将在执法中更易执行,二者各有利弊。因此,建议中国企业做出巴西专利布局策略分析,逐案检验决定是否应选择简化程序。通常而言,对于即将进行实质审查的专利申请,中国企业可以考虑等待常规实质审查而非使用简化程序获得专利授权是否更有利。

03

选择简化程序应做好充足准备

 

从目前的草案来看,新规一经正式发布后将仅适用于规定发布日之前已提交或是已进入国家阶段的专利申请,有强烈意愿希望通过简化程序快速获得专利授权的中国企业,应当提前做好准备以确保新规出台后能够从中受益,包括:(1)在巴西提交专利申请或要求进入PCT国家阶段;(2)请求提前公开,并要求对专利申请进行实质审查;(3)足额缴纳年度费用。

04

充分运用第三方观察手段提交公众意见

 

一旦提交第三方观察, BPTO就必须对该申请进行实质审查。因此,对自身发展影响较大的他人提交的巴西专利申请,可以通过提交第三方观察延缓其快速获权进度。

 

05

加强产业和竞争对手专利监控

 

一旦新规实行,预期将会在短时间内催生大量专利授权决定。因此,中国企业应当严密监控产业及主要竞争对手知识产权态势,避免专利侵权纠纷。如果认定有潜在纠纷的授权专利稳定性不高,可以考虑是否迅速启动专利无效措施。

 

[1]增补证书用于批准对某专利或专利申请中发明客体的“改良”或“发展”, 即使该“改良”或“发展”本身不涉及任何发明步骤, 但是其必须在原专利或专利申请的发明概念的范畴之内。增补证书将附属于原专利并享受同样的有效期。该证书的主要目的是给予发明人为自己发明的改良和发展寻求专利保护的机会。如果没有该制度,此类改良和发展很可能由于原专利或原专利申请而无法得到保护。

[2]巴西《工业产权法》规定符合可专利性、新颖性、创造性和工业实用性要求的专利申请才能被授权。在程序上,该法要求BPTO在驳回或授权专利申请之前必需先发布初步分析报告。而根据快速审查方案草案,将不对专利申请就上述根本要求进行实质审查,且授权无需发布初步分析报告。

 

 
 
 
 
 
 

BACKGROUND OF THE CRISIS AT THE BPTO

 

The average time it takes to obtain a patent from the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and State Intellectual Property Office in China (SIPO) is about three years. The Brazilian Patent and Trademark Office (BPTO) takes, in turn, takes approximately ten years to issue a letter-patent, which adversely affects Brazilian economic development and the promotion of technological development.

 

In recent years, the BPTO has launched some fast-track programmes designed to speed up the process for obtaining a patent in Brazil – such as green patents, pharmaceutical inventions, patent prosecution highway (PPH), Science and Technology (S&T) Institutions, and small and medium enterprises (S&Ms) -- but none of these programmes have been sufficient to significantly reduce the backlog.

 

Last June, the number of patent applications waiting to be analyzed by BPTO reached  231,184, according to information released by the BPTO.

 

It is worth highlighting that the BPTO has hired a huge number of examiners over the last few years to be able to substantially increase productivity: (i) 2015: 35 decisions per year for each examiner; (ii) 2016: 45 decisions per year; and (iii) an estimate to reach in 2017: 55 decisions per year. 

 

Currently, the BPTO counts on 326 patent examiners. In spite of all their dedication, the numbers show that such efforts are not sufficient to handle the exorbitant backlog.

 

Just to illustrate this critical situation, as also released by the BPTO, even guaranteeing the current conditions (number of backlog, examiners and productivity), in 2029, the backlog of patent pending exam would total a troubling amounts of 349,080 applications.

 

ven if productivity were doubled, reaching 110 decisions per year per examiner, the backlog would not be eliminated and the projected backlog  in 2029 would rise to 189,312 patent applications.

 

Also, even doubling the number of patent examiners would not be an efficient solution. According to BPTO’s study, the estimate to terminate the backlog would be within 8 years.

 

Given the urgency on handling these delays, the BPTO is aiming to find an exceptional and limited in time solution for the backlog by establishing a procedure that expedites the BPTO’s allowance of patent applications.

 

In light of this, the fast-track patent exam would be optional and would not apply to applications filed after the proposed rule is issued.

 
 
 
 
 
 

 THE PROPOSED RULE[1]

 

It is still uncertain if and when a rule implementing the fast-tracking patent application review will take effect. In addition, such rule has recently been the object of a Public Consultation  and there are several aspects of the rule being discussed.

 

ABPI, ABAPI, the International Chamber of Commerce and other entities have criticized some aspects of the proposed rule and those aspects can still be taken into consideration, as we will see further below.

 

Until now, the BPTO has not consolidated the suggestions submitted so far. Hence, the main purpose of this Article is to share information and promote discussions regarding the provisions of the proposed rule.

 

The proposal current states, as a general rule, that it shall be applied to all pending patent applications published before the formal publication of the rule, except:

 (i) applications for certificates of addition, (ii) split patent applications and (iii) pharmaceutical product/process patent applications in those cases where the merit exam will occur.

The standard proposal contemplates a simple procedure to grant a patent without a merit exam. According to this proposed rule. the patent application will be granted in 90 days, if all of the following conditions are satisfied:

1 – Patent applications or requests to enter into national phase was submitted before the date of publication of the proposed rule;

 

2 - Patent applications published or with the request for anticipated publication filed within 30 days of the date of publication of the proposed rule;

 

3 - Requests for examination of the patent application within 30 days of the date of publication of the proposed rule;

 

4 - Annual retributions paid in good standing; and 

 

5 - When BPTO’s technical opinion report regarding such patent application was not yet published.

The rule also gives the benefit to the applicant of being able to opt out within 90 days after the publication of the notice of admissibility informing the applicant that the patent application was included in the fast-track procedure.

 

Additionally, it is important to clarify that any patent application that has been subject to third-party observations or is subject to third-party observations within 90 days from the notice of admissibility will not be included in the fast-tracking procedure. 

 

Finally, according to the current proposal, the patent application will be granted as originally published by the BPTO.

 
 
 
 
 
 

CONTROVERSIAL ASPECTS OF THE PROPOSED RULE

 

As previously mentioned, the proposed rule was submitted to public consultation, providing IP practitioners in Brazil, and around the world as well, with the opportunity to submit their opinions and contributions to this important issue. 

 

The BPTO has recently published a 672 page document containing all contributions that were timely submitted. Upon reviewing this document, we have verified some bullet points that were addressed by different contributors, which demonstrates that the rule is not yet mature. The main points are the following:

 

The new rule should not be issued by the BPTO – as it will modify some aspects of Industrial Property Law, even for a short period of time, the new rule should be approved by the Brazilian Congress.

 

Some contributors ask the BPTO to only include patent applications filed before a specific date (suggestions are from December 31, 2007 to July 31, 2017), so as to avoid any new patent applications being filed with the sole purpose of receiving the benefits of a patent without an examination on the merits.

 

The terms to opt out, submit third-party observations, and request the requirement of examination of the patent application are overlapping, and therefore it would make sense to provide different terms for different acts so the applicants and competitors can have time to analyze the new scenario.

 

Limited number of patents should be granted at the same time, so as to enable competitors to better monitor the publications.

 

Instead of granting patent applications as published, the BPTO should consider the amendments duly requested by the applicant, and also the decisions rendered in different jurisdictions for patent applications with identical claims.

We cannot guarantee that those points will be reflected in the next or final version of the proposed rule.

 
 
 
 
 
 

GENERAL COMMENTS ON THE PROPOSED RULE

 

It is important to highlight that the proposed rule does not abolish the provisions of  Articles 10 and 18 of Brazilian IP Law, which state what cannot be patentable (discoveries, scientific theories, mathematical methods; computer programs per se; all or part of natural living beings, etc.). Therefore, a patent letter, even if issued according to the simplified procedure, would be subject to such limitations.

 

In addition, patents granted under this simplified procedure could still be challenged through administrative nullity procedures and judicial nullity actions. 

 

Given the lower degree of review of the applications granted according to this simplified procedure, it will be quite important to determine the best strategy to be adopted in each case. For example, filing third-party observations on specific applications of interest could be an effective mechanism to force the BPTO to more closely examine the patentability of the application.

 

Moreover, a patent portfolio and strategy review in Brazil will be highly recommended in order to check – case by case - whether it will be of interest to request early publication and examination, or to file third-party observations against applications filed by competitors, as well as whether to request the exclusion of certain applications from the simplified procedure, etc. 

 

Since the regulation, if adopted, will encompass only patent applications filed or entered into the national phase before the date of publication of the regulation, the proposed new rule should be carefully considered if you anticipate the filing or entry of applications in Brazil to determine whether you should allow them to benefit from the proposed simplified procedures.

 
 
 
 
 
 

GENERAL POINTS OF INTEREST FOR CHINESE COMPANIES

 

Briefly put, considering the current contents of the proposed rule (which is still under discussion), in order to try to take advantage of this proposed rule, Chinese companies may wish to consider:

 

Having their patents filed in Brazil, or the requesting the entry of national phase;

 

Requesting the anticipated publication and requesting the examination of the patents;

 

Paying all annual retributions;

 

Closely monitoring competitors’ patent applications in order to evaluate if it would make sense to submit a third-party observation.

We expect to receive a lot of decisions granting patents in a short period of time, therefore we shall closely monitor the situation in order to verify whether nullity measures should be taken right away against competitors.

 

Additionally, patent applications which have been reviewed on the merits will be much easier to enforce against third parties. In this sense, in connection with patent applications that are about to be analyzed, Chinese companies should consider waiting for regular examination instead of having the patent application prosecuted under the new proposed rule. 

 

Although we cannot guarantee that the new rule will eventually become effective, the Brazilian government has indicated that it is willing to take radical measures to diminish the current backlog. Therefore, it would make sense to closely monitor the development of this new rule, as the wording may still be amended and any final rule may differ from the current proposal.

 

[1] Until now, the BPTO has notconsolidated the suggestions submitted so far through Public Consultation.Hence, the contents of this Article does not reflect the view of the authors ortheir firms. The purpose of this Article is to share information regarding thefast-track exam procedure proposed by the BPTO.

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