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PATENTS ACT 1977

UK Public General Acts

Version 01/10/2006

1977 CHAPTER 37

Default Geographical Extent: E+W+S+N.I.


  • Part I. New Domestic Law
    • Patentability
    • Right to apply for and obtain a patent and be mentioned as inventor
    • Applications
    • Examination and search
    • Security and safety
    • Provisions as to patents after grant
    • Property in patents and applications, and registration
    • Employees’ inventions
    • Contracts as to patented products, etc.
    • Licences of right and compulsory licences
    • Use of patented inventions for services of the Crown
    • Infringement
    • Revocation of patents
    • Putting validity in issue
    • Opinions by Patent Office
    • General provisions as to amendment of patents and applications
  • Part II. Provisions about International Conventions
    • European patents and patent applications
    • Community patents
    • International applications for patents
    • Convention countries
    • Miscellaneous
  • Part III. Miscellaneous and General
    • Legal Proceedings
    • Offences
    • Immunity of department
    • Administrative provisions
    • Supplemental
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Introductory Text

Patents Act 1977

1977 CHAPTER 37

An Act to establish a new law of patents applicable to future patents and applications for patents; to amend the law of patents applicable to existing patents and applications for patents; to give effect to certain international conventions on patents; and for connected purposes.

[29th July 1977]

Annotations:

Extent Information

E1 This Act does not extend to the Channel Islands or the Colonies for extent provision see s. 132(2)

Modifications etc. (not altering text)

C1 Act extended (with modifications) (2.1.1993) by S.I. 1992/3091, reg.5

Act extended (8.2.1997) by S.I. 1996/3120, reg. 5

Act applied (8.2.1997) by S.I. 1997/64, rule 9

Act extended (1.3.2002) by The Patents and Plant Variety Rights (Compulsory Licensing) Regulations 2002 (S.I. 2002/247), reg. 26(1) (subject to reg. 26(2)(3))

C2 Act modified (10.6.2003) by Patents Act 1977 (Isle of Man) Order 2003 (S.I. 2003/1249), arts. 2, 3, Sch.


Part I
New Domestic Law



Patentability


1 Patentable inventions.

(1) A patent may be granted only for an invention in respect of which the following conditions are satisfied, that is to say—

(a) the invention is new;
(b) it involves an inventive step;
(c) it is capable of industrial application;
(d) the grant of a patent for it is not excluded by subsections (2) and (3) below;
and references in this Act to a patentable invention shall be construed accordingly.
(2) It is hereby declared that the following (among other things) are not inventions for the purposes of this Act, that is to say, anything which consists of—

(a) a discovery, scientific theory or mathematical method;
(b) a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work or any other aesthetic creation whatsoever;
(c) a scheme, rule or method for performing a mental act, playing a game or doing business, or a program for a computer;
(d) the presentation of information;
but the foregoing provision shall prevent anything from being treated as an invention for the purposes of this Act only to the extent that a patent or application for a patent relates to that thing as such.
[F1 (3) A patent shall not be granted for an invention the commercial exploitation of which would be contrary to public policy or morality.

(4) For the purposes of subsection (3) above exploitation shall not be regarded as contrary to public policy or morality only because it is prohibited by any law in force in the United Kingdom or any part of it.]

(5) The Secretary of State may by order vary the provisions of subsection (2) above for the purpose of maintaining them in conformity with developments in science and technology; and no such order shall be made unless a draft of the order has been laid before, and approved by resolution of, each House of Parliament.

Annotations:

Amendments (Textual)

F1 S. 1(3)(4) substituted (28.7.2000) by S.I. 2000/2037, reg. 3


2 Novelty.

(1) An invention shall be taken to be new if it does not form part of the state of the art.

(2) The state of the art in the case of an invention shall be taken to comprise all matter (whether a product, a process, information about either, or anything else) which has at any time before the priority date of that invention been made available to the public (whether in the United Kingdom or elsewhere) by written or oral description, by use or in any other way.

(3) The state of the art in the case of an invention to which an application for a patent or a patent relates shall be taken also to comprise matter contained in an application for another patent which was published on or after the priority date of that invention, if the following conditions are satisfied, that is to say—

(a) that matter was contained in the application for that other patent both as filed and as published; and
(b) the priority date of that matter is earlier than that of the invention.
(4) For the purposes of this section the disclosure of matter constituting an invention shall be disregarded in the case of a patent or an application for a patent if occurring later than the beginning of the period of six months immediately preceding the date of filing the application for the patent and either—

(a) the disclosure was due to, or made in consequence of, the matter having been obtained unlawfully or in breach of confidence by any person—
(i) from the inventor or from any other person to whom the matter was made available in confidence by the inventor or who obtained it from the inventor because he or the inventor believed that he was entitled to obtain it; or
(ii) from any other person to whom the matter was made available in confidence by any person mentioned in sub-paragraph (i) above or in this sub-paragraph or who obtained it from any person so mentioned because he or the person from whom he obtained it believed that he was entitled to obtain it;
(b) the disclosure was made in breach of confidence by any person who obtained the matter in confidence from the inventor or from any other person to whom it was made available, or who obtained it, from the inventor; or
(c) the disclosure was due to, or made in consequence of the inventor displaying the invention at an international exhibition and the applicant states, on filing the application, that the invention has been so displayed and also, within the prescribed period, files written evidence in support of the statement complying with any prescribed conditions.
(5) In this section references to the inventor include references to any proprietor of the invention for the time being.

(6) In the case of an invention consisting of a substance or composition for use in a method of treatment of the human or animal body by surgery or therapy or of diagnosis practised on the human or animal body, the fact that the substance or composition forms part of the state of the art shall not prevent the invention from being taken to be new if the use of the substance or composition in any such method does not form part of the state of the art.

3 Inventive step.

An invention shall be taken to involve an inventive step if it is not obvious to a person skilled in the art, having regard to any matter which forms part of the state of the art by virtue only of section 2(2) above (and disregarding section 2(3) above).

4 Industrial application.

(1) Subject to subsection (2) below, an invention shall be taken to be capable of industrial application if it can be made or used in any kind of industry, including agriculture.

(2) An invention of a method of treatment of the human or animal body by surgery or therapy or of diagnosis practised on the human or animal body shall not be taken to be capable of industrial application.

(3) Subsection (2) above shall not prevent a product consisting of a substance or composition being treated as capable of industrial application merely because it is invented for use in any such method.

5 Priority date.

(1) For the purposes of this Act the priority date of an invention to which an application for a patent relates and also of any matter (whether or not the same as the invention) contained in any such application is, except as provided by the following provisions of this Act, the date of filing the application.

(2) If in or in connection with an application for a patent (the application in suit) a declaration is made, whether by the applicant or any predecessor in title of his, complying with the relevant requirements of rules and specifying one or more earlier relevant applications for the purposes of this section made by the applicant or a predecessor in title of his and [F2 the application in suit has a date of filing during the period allowed under subsection (2A) (a) or (b) below] , then—

(a) if an invention to which the application in suit relates is supported by matter disclosed in the earlier relevant application or applications, the priority date of that invention shall instead of being the date of filing the application in suit be the date of filing the relevant application in which that matter was disclosed, or, if it was disclosed in more than one relevant application, the earliest of them;
(b) the priority date of any matter contained in the application in suit which was also disclosed in the earlier relevant application or applications shall be the date of filing the relevant application in which that matter was disclosed or, if it was disclosed in more than one relevant application, the earliest of them.
[F3 (2A) The periods are—

(a) the period of twelve months immediately following the date of filing of the earlier specified relevant application, or if there is more than one, of the earliest of them; and
(b) where the comptroller has given permission under subsection (2B) below for a late declaration to be made under subsection (2) above, the period commencing immediately after the end of the period allowed under paragraph (a) above and ending at the end of the prescribed period.
(2B) The applicant may make a request to the comptroller for permission to make a late declaration under subsection (2) above.

(2C) The comptroller shall grant a request made under subsection (2B) above if, and only if—

(a) the request complies with the relevant requirements of rules; and
(b) the comptroller is satisfied that the applicant’s failure to file the application in suit within the period allowed under subsection (2A) (a) above was unintentional.]
(3) Where an invention or other matter contained in the application in suit was also disclosed in two earlier relevant applications filed by the same applicant as in the case of the application in suit or a predecessor in title of his and the second of those relevant applications was specified in or in connection with the application in suit, the second of those relevant applications shall, so far as concerns that invention or matter, be disregarded unless—

(a) it was filed in or in respect of the same country as the first; and
(b) not later than the date of filing the second, the first (whether or not so specified) was unconditionally withdrawn, or was abandoned or refused, without—
(i) having been made available to the public (whether in the United Kingdom or elsewhere) ;
(ii) leaving any rights outstanding; and
(iii) having served to establish a priority date in relation to another application, wherever made.
(4) The foregoing provisions of this section shall apply for determining the priority date of an invention for which a patent has been granted as they apply for determining the priority date of an invention to which an application for that patent relates.

(5) In this section “relevant application” means any of the following applications which has a date of filing, namely—

(a) an application for a patent under this Act;
(b) an application in or for a convention country (specified under section 90 below) for protection in respect of an invention or an application which, in accordance with the law of a convention country or a treaty or international convention to which a convention country is a party, is equivalent to such an application.
F4 [(6) References in subsection (5) above to a convention country include references to a country, other than the United Kingdom, which is a member of the World Trade Organisation.]

Annotations:

Amendments (Textual)

F2 Words in s. 5(2) substituted (1.1.2005) by The Regulatory Reform (Patents) Order 2004 (S.I. 2004/2357), arts. 1(2), 3 (with arts. 20-23)

F3 S. 5(2A)-(2C) inserted (1.1.2005) by The Regulatory Reform (Patents) Order 2004 (S.I. 2004/2357), arts. 1(2), 3 (with arts. 20-23)

F4 S. 5(6) inserted (29.7.1999) by S.I. 1999/1899, reg. 7

Modifications etc. (not altering text)

C3 S. 5 extended (24.5.2000) by S.I. 2000/1114, art. 2


6 Disclosure of matter, etc., between earlier and later applications.

(1) It is hereby declared for the avoidance of doubt that where an application (the application in suit) is made for a patent and a declaration is made in accordance with section 5(2) above in or in connection with that application specifying an earlier relevant application, the application in suit and any patent granted in pursuance of it shall not be invalidated by reason only of relevant intervening acts.

(2) In this section— “relevant application” has the same meaning as in section 5 above; and “relevant intervening acts” means acts done in relation to matter disclosed in an earlier relevant application between the dates of the earlier relevant application and the application in suit, as for example, filing another application for the invention for which the earlier relevant application was made, making information available to the public about that invention or that matter or working that invention, but disregarding any application, or the disclosure to the public of matter contained in any application, which is itself to be disregarded for the purposes of section 5(3) above.

Right to apply for and obtain a patent and be mentioned as inventor


7 Right to apply for and obtain a patent.

(1) Any person may make an application for a patent either alone or jointly with another.

(2) A patent for an invention may be granted—

(a) primarily to the inventor or joint inventors;
(b) in preference to the foregoing, to any person or persons who, by virtue of any enactment or rule of law, or any foreign law or treaty or international convention, or by virtue of an enforceable term of any agreement entered into with the inventor before the making of the invention, was or were at the time of the making of the invention entitled to the whole of the property in it (other than equitable interests) in the United Kingdom;
(c) in any event, to the successor or successors in title of any person or persons mentioned in paragraph (a) or (b) above or any person so mentioned and the successor or successors in title of another person so mentioned;
and to no other person.
(3) In this Act “inventor” in relation to an invention means the actual deviser of the invention and “joint inventor” shall be construed accordingly.

(4) Except so far as the contrary is established, a person who makes an application for a patent shall be taken to be the person who is entitled under subsection (2) above to be granted a patent and two or more persons who make such an application jointly shall be taken to be the persons so entitled.

8 Determination before grant of questions about entitlement to patents, etc.

(1) At any time before a patent has been granted for an invention (whether or not an application has been made for it) —

(a) any person may refer to the comptroller the question whether he is entitled to be granted (alone or with any other persons) a patent for that invention or has or would have any right in or under any patent so granted or any application for such a patent; or
(b) any of two or more co-proprietors of an application for a patent for that invention may so refer the question whether any right in or under the application should be transferred or granted to any other person;
and the comptroller shall determine the question and may make such order as he thinks fit to give effect to the determination.
(2) Where a person refers a question relating to an invention under subsection (1) (a) above to the comptroller after an application for a patent for the invention has been filed and before a patent is granted in pursuance of the application, then, unless the application is refused or withdrawn before the reference is disposed of by the comptroller, the comptroller may, without prejudice to the generality of subsection (1) above and subject to subsection (6) below.—

(a) order that the application shall proceed in the name of that person, either solely or jointly with that of any other applicant, instead of in the name of the applicant or any specified applicant;
(b) where the reference was made by two or more persons, order that the application shall proceed in all their names jointly;
(c) refuse to grant a patent in pursuance of the application or order the application to be amended so as to exclude any of the matter in respect of which the question was referred;
(d) make an order transferring or granting any licence or other right in or under the application and give directions to any person for carrying out the provisions of any such order.
(3) Where a question is referred to the comptroller under subsection (1) (a) above and—

(a) the comptroller orders an application for a patent for the invention to which the question relates to be so amended;
(b) any such application is refused under subsection 2(c) above before the comptroller has disposed of the reference (whether the reference was made before or after the publication of the application) ; or
(c) any such application is refused under any other provision of this Act or is withdrawn before the comptroller has disposed of the reference [F5 (whether the application is refused or withdrawn before or after its publication) ] ;
the comptroller may order that any person by whom the reference was made may within the prescribed period make a new application for a patent for the whole or part of any matter comprised in the earlier application or, as the case may be, for all or any of the matter excluded from the earlier application, subject in either case to section 76 below, and in either case that, if such a new application is made, it shall be treated as having been filed on the date of filing the earlier application.
(4) Where a person refers a question under subsection (1) (b) above relating to an application, any order under subsection (1) above may contain directions to any person for transferring or granting any right in or under the application.

(5) If any person to whom directions have been given under subsection (2) (d) or (4) above fails to do anything necessary for carrying out any such directions within 14 days after the date of the directions, the comptroller may, on application made to him by any person in whose favour or on whose reference the directions were given, authorise him to do that thing on behalf of the person to whom the directions were given.

(6) Where on a reference under this section it is alleged that, by virtue of any transaction, instrument or event relating to an invention or an application for a patent, any person other than the inventor or the applicant for the patent has become entitled to be granted (whether alone or with any other persons) a patent for the invention or has or would have any right in or under any patent so granted or any application for any such patent, an order shall not be made under subsection (2) (a) , (b) or (d) above on the reference unless notice of the reference is given to the applicant and any such person, except any of them who is a party to the reference.

(7) If it appears to the comptroller on a reference of a question under this section that the question involves matters which would more properly be determined by the court, he may decline to deal with it and, without prejudice to the court’s jurisdiction to determine any such question and make a declaration, or any declaratory jurisdiction of the court in Scotland, the court shall have jurisdiction to do so.

(8) No directions shall be given under this section so as to affect the mutual rights or obligations of trustees or of the personal representatives of deceased persons, or their right or obligations as such.

Annotations:

Amendments (Textual)

F5 Words in s. 8(3)(c) substituted (1.1.2005) by Patents Act 2004 (c. 16), ss. 6(1), 17(1); S.I. 2004/3205, art. 2(b) (with art. 9)


9 Determination after grant of questions referred before grant.

If a question with respect to a patent or application is referred by any person to the comptroller under section 8 above, whether before or after the making of an application for the patent, and is not determined before the time when the application is first in order for a grant of a patent in pursuance of the application, that fact shall not prevent the grant of a patent, but on its grant that person shall be treated as having referred to the comptroller under section 37 below any question mentioned in that section which the comptroller thinks appropriate.

10 Handling of application by joint applicants.

If any dispute arises between joint applicants for a patent whether or in what manner the application should be proceeded with, the comptroller may, on a request made by any of the parties, give such directions as he thinks fit for enabling the application to proceed in the name of one or more of the parties alone or for regulating the manner in which it shall be proceeded with, or for both those purposes, according as the case may require.

11 Effect of transfer of application under s. 8 or 10.

(1) Where an order is made or directions are given under section 8 or 10 above that an application for a patent shall proceed in the name of one or some of the original applicants (whether or not it is also to proceed in the name of some other person) , any licences or other rights in or under the application shall, subject to the provisions of the order and any directions under either of those sections, continue in force and be treated as granted by the persons in whose name the application is to proceed.

(2) Where an order is made or directions are given under section 8 above that an application for a patent shall proceed in the name of one or more persons none of whom was an original applicant (on the ground that the original applicant or applicants was or were not entitled to be granted the patent) , any licences or other rights in or under the application shall, subject to the provisions of the order and any directions under that section and subject to subsection (3) below, lapse on the registration of that person or those persons as the applicant or applicants or, where the application has not been published, on the making of the order.

(3) If before registration of a reference under section 8 above resulting in the making of any order mentioned in subsection (2) above—

(a) the original applicant or any of the applicants, acting in good faith, worked the invention in question in the United Kingdom or made effective and serious preparations to do so; or
(a) a licensee of the applicant, acting in good faith, worked the invention in the United Kingdom or made effective and serious preparations to do so;
that or those original applicant or applicants or the licensee shall, on making a request within the prescribed period to the person in whose name the application is to proceed, be entitled to be granted a licence (but not an exclusive licence) to continue working or, as the case may be, to work the invention.
[F6 (3A) If, before registration of a reference under section 8 above resulting in the making of an order under subsection (3) of that section, the condition in subsection (3) (a) or (b) above is met, the original applicant or any of the applicants or the licensee shall, on making a request within the prescribed period to the new applicant, be entitled to be granted a licence (but not an exclusive licence) to continue working or, as the case may be, to work the invention so far as it is the subject of the new application.]

(4) [F7 A licence under subsection (3) or (3A) above ] shall be granted for a reasonable period and on reasonable terms.

(5) Where an order is made as mentioned in subsection (2) [F8 or (3A) ] above, the person in whose name the application is to proceed [F9 or, as the case may be, who makes the new application ] or any person claiming that he is entitled to be granted any such licence may refer to the comptroller the question whether the latter is so entitled and whether any such period is or terms are reasonable, and the comptroller shall determine the question and may, if he considers it appropriate, order the grant of such a licence.

Annotations:

Amendments (Textual)

F6 S. 11(3A) inserted (1.1.2005) by Patents Act 2004 (c. 16), ss. 6(2), 17(1); S.I. 2004/3205, art. 2(b) (with art. 9)

F7 Words in s. 11(4) substituted (1.1.2005) by Patents Act 2004 (c. 16), ss. 6(3), 17(1); S.I. 2004/3205, art. 2(b) (with art. 9)

F8 Words in s. 11(5) inserted (1.1.2005) by Patents Act 2004 (c. 16), ss. 6(4)(a), 17(1); S.I. 2004/3205, art. 2(b) (with art. 9)

F9 Words in s. 11(5) inserted (1.1.2005) by Patents Act 2004 (c. 16), ss. 6(4)(b), 17(1); S.I. 2004/3205, art. 2(b) (with art. 9)