You can oppose a granted patent because you believe that it involves existing technology and fails to meet the criteria, such as novelty and inventive step, which a patent application must meet. Although the patenting bodies try to examine the prior art as fully as possible, information may nevertheless be missed. If that is the case, or if information has come to light in some other way and provides a basis on which the patent can be contested, the grant of patent can be opposed.
Opposition proceedings are conducted by drawing up a notice of opposition and submitting it to the European Patent Office along with the correct argumentation, technical explanation and evidence. Submission initiates opposition proceedings, in which the patent holder and the opponent can reciprocally exchange arguments a number of times. The proceedings are normally concluded with oral proceedings at the European Patent Office in Munich or The Hague. During these proceedings, the patent holder and opponent can argue their case for the last time, after which the European Patent Office takes a decision. An appeal can be lodged against this decision.
The advantage of the opposition proceedings is that they apply to the whole of Europe. You do not therefore have to instigate proceedings separately in every country in Europe to present your case. From the point of view of cost, it is therefore advisable to file opposition in a timely manner. If you are too late, it will only be possible to contest the patent through the respective national courts.
A number of terms that feature in oppositions:
Time limit: There is a time limit for contesting the validity of a granted European patent. Opposition must be filed within nine months following the grant of patent.
Oral proceedings: An opposition is nearly always ruled upon in a hearing at the European Patent Office. These oral proceedings can take place in Munich and The Hague. Arnold + Siedsma has an office with administrative support at both locations to assist you and your patent attorney.
Patent holder: As a patent holder, you may also be faced with opposition to your own patent. Arnold + Siedsma will make every effort to uphold your patent.
Monitoring: Arnold + Siedsma can monitor the patent applications and patents filed in your specialist area so that you do not have any unpleasant surprises and can file your opposition in a timely manner.
Third-party notifications: If you have relevant information which prevents a grant of patent in respect of a third-party application, you can submit this information to the European Patent Office even during the grant procedure. You do not then become a party to the proceedings in the way that you are in the case of an opposition.