New Belgian regulation grants a waiver of European patent translation requirements in Belgium as from 2017

Published on October 17, 2016

The Belgian Parliament recently adopted a new regulation (as at 29th June 2016, containing various provisions regarding the economy, articles 22, 48, 60) impacting patent validations in Belgium. This new law is not a ratification of the London Agreement per se. However, it has a similar impact.

What impact does the new regulation have?

Until now, European patents had to be translated into one of Belgium’s official languages to take full effect in the country. According to the new regulation, a European patent shall grant to its holder, from the date on which the mention of its grant is published in the European Patent Bulletin and regardless of the language of the proceedings, the same rights as would be conferred by a Belgian national patent. The same applies to European patents maintained in amended form after the opposition procedure or limited after the limitation procedure. In other words, there are no translation requirements for European patents designating Belgium anymore.

This new law will apply to European patents with a date on which the European Patent Bulletin mentions the grant, the maintenance in an amended form after opposition, or the limitation on or after 1st January 2017, irrespective of the filing date of the European patent application.

Nevertheless, claims translation requirements to obtain provisional protection for European patent applications in Belgium remain. In this context we want again to draw your attention on the fact that for European patent applications filed before 13th December 2007, i.e. those filed under EPC 1973, and prosecuted in English or German it remains safer to file a translation of the claims into French or Dutch to obtain provisional protection. Legal uncertainty remains when such applications are prosecuted in the German language, so it is still recommended to translate the claims into French or Dutch in these instances. For European patent applications filed on or after 13th December 2007, a translation into French, Dutch or German is still required for any application being prosecuted in English for provisional protection to apply.

What’s next?

Even though translations will no longer be necessary for the validation of European patents in Belgium, we will still propose to translate claims to obtain provisional protection in Belgium, translate claims into the two other official languages of the EPO at grant, or register an address for service with the Belgian Patent Office.

Having an address for service is an efficient way to guarantee that any communication issued by a national patent office in the name of the patentee during the lifetime of the patent will reach the right person on time.