On 13 December 2005, Greece became the fifteenth Contracting State of the European Patent Convention to deposit its instrument of ratification or accession for EPC 2000. Fifteen was the magic number required to start the clock ticking and EPC 2000 comes into force, at the latest, two years from that date.
Should all Contracting States deposit their instruments of ratification or accession before September 2007, EPC would come into force on an earlier date - the first day of the third month following the last Contracting State's deposit. According to Article 172(4) EPC, a Contracting State that has not ratified or acceded to the EPC 2000 at the time of its entry into force shall cease to be party to the EPC as from that time.
The EPO website has a good section on the EPC 2000, including
- the full text of EPC 2000
- results of and papers from the November 2000 conference
- traveaux preparatoires from 1997 leading up to the conference
- transitional provisions
- implementing regulations
- schedule of Contracting States accession and ratification
The provision of EPC 200 include:
- Methods of treatment or diagnosis. In particular A second medical use can be patented using a straightforward claim. Using a "Swiss-type" claim is still allowable.
- Changes to the rules on post-grant amendment and the introduction of the concept of central limitiation at the EPO
- The extent of protection conferred by European patents is strengthened by expressly including so-called "equivalents".
- There are various amendments to simplify and streamline the EPO's patent grant procedure. For example, it will be possible to file patent applications in any language, since a translation into one of the official languages of the EPO will not be required until a later date. During the procedure itself, applicants will benefit from improved protection against inadvertent legal consequences arising from the non-observance of time limits.
- All EPC states will be deemed to be designated at the date of filing, although any designation may be withdrawn up until grant of the European patent
(source: Peter Hill, Simmons & Simmons, London)