In the latest Official Gazette issued by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Patent Office, the Patent Office confirms the start of the new 'outsourcing' model announced earlier in 2021 for new patent applications.
From 1st January 2023, the GCC Patent Office will begin handling national patent applications on behalf of the requesting GCC country. So far, only the patent offices of Bahrain and Kuwait have been confirmed to be referring their national applications from January 2023 to the GCC Patent Office to handle formality and substantive examination. There has been no announcement from the remaining GCC members, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, as to if or when filings through these national offices may be handled through the GCC Patent Office.
New official fees were also published in the Gazette. In line with recent official fee changes in IP matters in the Gulf region, the official filing fees have been reduced. The official filing fee for company applicants is now around USD 800, approximately 20% lower than pre-2021 official fees. The substantive examination fees are still case dependent and estimated by the examining authority at the time of examination.
It is not clear how this arrangement will affect the official fees for applicants filing national applications in Bahrain and Kuwait, i.e., if applicants have to file at the national offices who then refer applications to the GCC Patent Office for a fee or if they can file directly at the GCC Patent Office and rely on the published fees. Once the applications are examined, the GCC Patent Office will transfer these electronically to the national offices for grant.
It is also not clear if applicants will have the option of choosing which office handles their application i.e., the national offices or the GCC Patent Office. If it transpires that applicants will have an option as to where the application can be published, we may find a degree of forum shopping for those offices which may examine applications more quickly, or are perceived as offering a more-applicant favourable level of examination. This is something we will consider further as information comes forward from the GCC Patent Office.
As of now, it appears that the decision to refer applications has been made at the national level and that all applications will be referred. However, it is not yet confirmed whether pending applications (filed prior to January 2023) will also be forwarded for examination once the new process kicks off.
We expect further news to be published on this in the coming weeks.
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