From 1 March 2015, it will become possible to validate European patents in Morocco.
Until now, patent protection in Morocco could only be obtained as a national patent filed directly or by national phase entry from a PCT application. From March, applicants wishing to file in Morocco will be able to do so via a European patent application.
This development is notable in that it will, for the first time, enable applicants to use the European patent system in order to secure patent protection in a non European country. With the addition of Morocco as a so-called ‘validation state’, in total 41 countries will be within the reach of applicants for a European patent (including the current 38 contracting member states and 2 non contracting extension states).
In practice, the procedure before the European Patent Office (EPO) for validating in Morocco will be similar to that which applies for extension states (currently Bosnia-Herzegovina and Montenegro). European patent applications will automatically be deemed to include a request for validation in Morocco, the request being deemed withdrawn only if the applicant does not pay the requisite official fee to the EPO in time. The time limit to pay the official fee will be the same as that for payment of the designation fee and extension fees, i.e. within six months from the publication date of the European search report or, where applicable, within the period for performing the acts required for ex-PCT entry into the European phase. The same two-month grace period, for late payment with a 50 per cent surcharge, will apply. The main difference is that the official fee, at EUR 240, will be higher than the corresponding fee payable for an extension state (EUR 102).
Once the European patent has been granted, and subject to completion of local validation requirements (e.g. filing a translation of the granted claims into the French or Arabic language, and paying a local fee, at the Moroccan IP Office – to be confirmed), the European patent will have the same legal effects in Morocco as a Moroccan national patent.
The new provisions apply only to European applications (filed directly or as a European phase entry from a PCT application) having a filing date on or after 1 March 2015.
Looking ahead, agreements to allow the validation of European patents in two further countries – Tunisia and Moldova – are expected to come into effect in the near future.