From 1 December 2017, it will become possible to validate European patents in Tunisia.
Until now, patent protection in Tunisia could only be obtained as a national patent filed directly or by national phase entry from a PCT application. From December, applicants wishing to file in Tunisia will be able to do so via a European patent application.
With the addition of Tunisia as a validation state, in total 43 countries will be within the reach of applicants for a European patent (including the current 38 contracting member states, 2 non-contracting extension states and 2 validation states).
In practice, the procedure before the European Patent Office (EPO) for validating in Tunisia will be similar to that which applies for extension states (currently Bosnia-Herzegovina and Montenegro) and other validation states (Morocco and Moldova). European patent applications will automatically be deemed to include a request for validation in Tunisia, the request being deemed withdrawn only if the applicant does not pay the requisite official fee to the EPO in time.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, extension and other validation 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 official fee, at EUR 180, is slightly lower than the corresponding fees for validation in Morocco (EUR 240) and Moldova (EUR 200).
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 Tunisian IP Office – to be confirmed), the European patent will have the same legal effects in Tunisia as a Tunisian 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 December 2017.
This news will be welcomed by applicants seeking to streamline patent prosecution, and comes less than a year after the European Patent Organisation and Cambodia entered into an agreement with a view to eventually allowing the validation of European patents in Cambodia. This agreement is expected to come into effect in the near future.