IIPI, in conjunction with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, will initiate a study to determine the economic impact of Europe’s lack of a grace period.
In most countries, an invention cannot be patented unless it is novel. In Europe, public disclosure of a patentable invention – for example through speaking or publication – precludes an invention from being considered novel. Thus, if an inventor publicly discloses an invention before applying for a patent, that inventor will be unable to receive a patent. However, a grace period would allow inventors to disclose their inventions without this risk.
Proponents of the grace period have alleged that Europe’s lack of a grace period results in missed patenting opportunities for European researchers who may prematurely disclose their inventions. They further allege that this has a significant impact on the European economy. However, there is no current estimate of the value of these missed patenting opportunities. IIPI and the USPTO plan to disseminate a short survey to European researchers to determine if the lack of a grace period prevented them from obtaining a patent for an otherwise patentable invention. The survey results will provide the basis for an econometric analysis, which will determine the economic value of these missed patenting opportunities.
If the project finds that the cost of the lack of a grace period is significant, then the study will provide backing for arguments in favor of Europe’s adoption of a grace period. Europe’s adoption of a grace period would allow European inventors to more thoroughly test their ideas before filing patent applications and would narrow the divide between the US and European patent systems.