On 17th July 2023 the UK Government published all documents relating to the UK’s accession to the £12trn Pacific Rim trading bloc, the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) – including all side letters temporarily setting aside the patent grace period provisions in Article 18.38.

The CPTPP is a free-trade agreement (FTA) between eleven countries around the Pacific Rim: Canada, Mexico, Peru, Chile, New Zealand, Australia, Brunei, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam and Japan.

The UK submitted its formal application to join CPTPP on 1 February 2021. The CPTPP members agreed to start negotiations with the UK on 2 June 2021.

The side letters between the UK and each of the eleven CPTPP member states that temporarily set aside the provisions of the CPTPP that require a grace period for patents can be viewed on the Department for Business and Trade site. 

Article 18.38 of the CPTPP on the grace period is an integral part of the agreement and the UK has agreed to "endeavour to promote harmonisation in international fora regarding a grace period consistent with that Article, and consequently shall endeavour to promote the adoption of amendments to the European Patent Convention, and, as needed, to the Strasbourg Patent Convention, to incorporate provisions which are substantially the same as, and not inconsistent with, Article 18.38." Once such amendments have been adopted, Article 18.38 will then apply to the UK. 

In the meantime, the United Kingdom will provide a yearly written report regarding the specific actions it has taken to promote harmonisation and the adoption of grace period rules in international fora including the European Patent Organisation. 

FICPI has been a powerful advocate for a patent grace period for many years, and is pleased to note the commitments made by the UK in this area. No doubt the UK will be influential in promoting a grace period amongst the member states of the EPO. 

Five applications to join the CPTPP were received formally following the UK’s: from Costa Rica, Ecuador, Uruguay, China and Taiwan. Thailand, the Philippines, and South Korea are likely to make formal applications in the future.

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