Europe: Restrictions on the right to amend patent claims
In its decision HIGH POINT SARL v KPN BV, the Dutch Supreme Court held that the right of the patentee to limit a European patent before the national courts, as defined by the European convention (EPC) article 137(3), may be restricted by national procedural conditions. Accordingly, the Dutch courts may refuse to consider limited claims that give rise to a new debate about patent validity after filing the grounds of appeal.
The extent of the right to limit the claims was a matter of interpretation of the EPC. The Supreme Court found that the plain text of article 137(3) EPC did not exclude imposing national procedural conditions on the right to limit the patent. The legislative history did not show an intention to harmonise procedural law in this respect. The legislator introduced article 137(3) EPC only because the right to limit the patent claims was not, or insufficiently, guaranteed in some of the contracting states. Furthermore, the court noted that use of procedural conditions was accepted in other states.
The Supreme Court upheld the criteria used by the court of appeal for denying the right to limit the patent. The court of appeal's reason for denying this right was that the limitation would give rise to a new debate about validity after filing the grounds of appeal. The court of appeal was allowed to find this based on the fact that the added limitation was not used for an elaboration or more accurate definition of an earlier argument, and that it introduced a wholly new element in the proceedings.
Lars de Haas