Since December 1, 2017, the process of validating European patents in Tunisia has become possible. Prior to this date, securing patent protection in Tunisia necessitated filing for a national patent either directly or via national phase entry from a PCT application. However, as of December 1, 2017, in accordance with the Agreement on the Validation of European Patents in Tunisia, which had been signed since July 3, 2014, applicants now have the option to designate Tunisia as a "validation state" in their European patent applications. Once a European patent is granted and validated in Tunisia, it provides nearly identical protection to patents issued by the European Patent Office (EPO) for the existing 38 member states of the European Patent Organisation.
With the inclusion of Tunisia as a validation state, applicants for a European patent now have access to a total of 43 countries. This includes the current 38 contracting member states, along with 2 non-contracting extension states and 2 validation states.
In practice, the procedure for European Patent Office (EPO) validation of European patents in Tunisia closely mirrors that of extension states (currently Bosnia-Herzegovina and Montenegro) and other validation states (Morocco and Moldova). European patent applications are automatically considered to include a request for validation in Tunisia. This request will only be withdrawn if the applicant fails to pay the required official fee to the EPO within the stipulated timeframe. The official fee, set at EUR 180, is slightly lower than the corresponding fees for validation in Morocco (EUR 240) and Moldova (EUR 200). The time limit for paying this fee is the same as for designating, extending, or validating fees, which is within six months from the publication date of the European search report or, when applicable, within the period for performing the necessary actions for entering the European phase after a PCT application. A two-month grace period is also allowed for late payments, subject to a 50% surcharge.
Upon the grant of the European patent and the fulfillment of Tunisian validation requirements, such as submitting a patent translation in English, French, or Arabic and paying a local fee at the Tunisian IP Office, the European patent will carry the same legal rights in Tunisia as a Tunisian national patent.
It's crucial to note that these provisions regarding the validation of European patents in Tunisia apply exclusively to European applications filed directly or as European phase entries from PCT applications with a filing date on or after December 1, 2017.
Local Regulations Pertaining to Validation of European Patents in Tunisia
Within three months from the publication date of the mention of the grant of the European patent, the patent holder is required to furnish the Institute with either the text or a translation of the European patent specification in Arabic, English, or French, as issued. Additionally, they must pay the prescribed registration fee (the exact amount of which should be confirmed). This requirement is outlined in Article 5(2) of the Agreement on Validation of European Patents in Tunisia.
If, following an opposition or a limitation request made before the EPO, the European patent is upheld in an amended form, the holder must provide the Institute, within three months from the date of publication of the decision to maintain the European patent in its amended or limited form, with the text or a translation of the patent in Arabic, English, or French, along with the prescribed registration fee (Article 5(3) of the Agreement).
Failure to produce the text or translation within the stipulated time frame, or non-payment of the registration fee, will result in the validated European patent being considered void from the outset. However, an additional three-month period is allowed, following the expiration of the applicable time limits in paragraphs 2 and 3, during which the text or translation can be produced, provided a surcharge equal to 100% of the registration fee is paid (Article 5(6) of the Agreement).
Applicants of European patents or holders of validated European patents have the option to submit a reviewed translation, accompanied by the prescribed registration fee, at any time. However, these reviewed translations of published European patent application claims and granted European patents have no legal effect until they are re-opened to the public by the Institute (Article 6(3) of the Agreement on Validation of European Patents in Tunisia).
Regarding annuity fees for validated European patents, these fees are to be paid to the Institute for the years following the year in which the mention of the grant of the European patent was published. If these annuity fees are due within two months from the European grant date published in the European Patent Bulletin, they are considered validly paid as long as they are paid within the period specified by the institute, and no surcharge is imposed under Tunisian patent law (Article 9(1, 2) of the Agreement on Validation of European Patents in Tunisia).
Filing Requirements for Validation of European Patents in Tunisia
- Power of Attorney: A Power of Attorney is not required.
- Translations: Translations are necessary for the following components:
- Title: English, French, or Arabic
- Abstract: English, French, or Arabic
- Claims: English, French, or Arabic
- Description: English, French, or Arabic
- Drawings: English, French, or Arabic
The translations must be filed within three months following the European Grant Date. A grace period of three months is allowed, but with an additional charge of 100% of the registration fee.
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