3 August 2014

Validation of European Patents in Morocco and Tunisia

Back in December 2010 the European Patent Office (EPO) entered into an agreement with the Moroccan Industrial and Commercial Property Office (OMPIC) to allow the validation of European patents in Morocco. Now Tunisia has followed suit, and the Tunisian Patent Office, or the National Standardization and Industrial Property Institute (INNORPI) as it is otherwise known, signed a similar agreement with the EPO on 3 July 2014 to allow the validation of European patents in Tunisia.

The respective agreements will be ratified once the national laws of Morocco and Tunisia have been amended to allow the validation of granted European patents and, if necessary, to ensure that the patent legislation complies with the European Patent Convention (EPC).  It is expected that a suitable amendment will be voted into law this year in Morocco, thereby allowing the agreement with Morocco to be ratified.  However, it is not yet known when the agreement will be ratified in Tunisia.

Once the agreements are ratified, Morocco and Tunisia will then become EPC Extension States, i.e. states which are not Contracting States of the EPC, but which recognise European patents upon request.  Accordingly, a European patent which is validated in either Morocco or Tunisia will have the same legal status as a patent granted under the Moroccan or Tunisian Patent Act, respectively. Since this will make it easier for applicants to obtain patent protection in Morocco and Tunisia, once the respective agreements have been ratified, it is expected that this will lead to an increase in foreign investment in both countries.

It is not yet known what requirements will be necessary to validate a European patent in either Morocco or Tunisia and we shall keep you updated.  Meanwhile, it will be interesting to see if any other North African countries choose to follow Morocco and Tunisia’s lead.