Denmark is not a single constitutional entity, but rather a national community consisting of three separate legal systems: Denmark, Greenland and the Faroe Islands.

The Faroe Islands has belonged to Denmark since the Middle Ages, but today it has a large degree of autonomy, with the Lagtinget (Parliament) as the supreme authority. Unlike Denmark, the Faroe Islands has never been a member of the European Union, but since 2005 the government of the Faroe Islands has had the authority to enter into independent agreements with third countries, including the European Union.

Since 1948 the Faroese legal system has consisted of both Danish and Faroese rules, but the Danish Constitution still represents the common constitutional basis for the whole realm. However, due to growing Faroese independence, patent applicants must be aware of the special patenting process in the Faroe Islands.

Patent system

A patent covering Denmark, Greenland and the Faroe Islands must be filed with the Danish Patent and Trademark Office (DKPTO) as a single application. However, different rules and conditions apply to obtain a patent in each country.

If an applicant wishes to obtain a Danish patent, it may do so through a national application, the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) system or a European application. A patent covering the Faroe Islands and Greenland may be applied for through a national application or the PCT system. Thus, patents applied for through a European application will cover Denmark only.

New royal decree

In the past, various special rules have applied to obtain a patent in the Faroe Islands, which required the national PCT stage in Denmark to be entered into at a far earlier stage in order to cover the Faroe Islands than it had to cover Denmark and Greenland only.

The DKPTO and the Faroese authorities have worked together for several years to update the Danish regime to cover the Faroe Islands. The necessary legislation was presented to the Lagtinget in Autumn 2014 and was finalised in Spring 2015.

The Legal Gazette of April 22 2015 announced a new royal decree updating the Faroese patent rules. Therefore, as of May 2 2015 the patent rules for Denmark, Greenland and the Faroe Islands are uniform. Thus, the following rules apply:

  • A patent application for Denmark, Greenland and the Faroe Islands may be filed and examined in Danish or English. If the application is in English, the applicant is invited to translate the claims into Danish when the DKPTO approves the application for grant.
  • The deadline for entering the PCT national stage for Denmark, Greenland and the Faroe Islands is 31 months from the international filing date or – if priority is claimed – from the earliest priority date. 
  • Applications for Denmark, Greenland and the Faroe Islands filed in a language other than English or Danish must be translated into English or Danish within two months of filing.

Jesper Mark Wenzel

This article first appeared in IAM magazine. For further information please visit www.iam-magazine.com.