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Better scrutiny in awarding patents

An element of scrutiny in the award of patents is to be introduced under amendments to the law so as to ensure they are only given to deserving parties, Investments Minister Chris Cardona told Parliament yesterday.

Opening the discussion in second reading of the Bill amending the Patents and Designs Act, Dr Cardona said the government had prioritised this Bill ahead of the summer recess since the amendments were urgent.

With this Act the government was introducing more objectivity and robust legislation for the pharmaceutical industry, he said.

Although the local patent system was quite satisfactory, the proposed amendments would improve it.

Malta did not operate a substantive search system to check whether an invention was new before licensing a patent, so that double licensing would not ensue.

Now, patent protection for a scheduled invention shall only be possible through a patent granted after an application filed and processed under the Patent Co-operation Treaty or under the European Patent Convention, he said.

The Bill also gave the power for someone to ask for a patent to be invalidated in case a false declaration was found to have been made.

The main aim of the proposed amendments was to restrict the licences for patents that were not new and that were irrelevant to the market.

The removal of an unwarranted patent would therefore be facilitated.

Although the local system was quite satisfactory, the proposed amendments would improve it

There would be a specialised patents tribunal and any person who wished a patent to be revoked could file a request with the Comptroller or before this tribunal.

Oppostition deputy leader Mario de Marco said intellectual property generated some three per cent of the GDP and employed around 8,000 people.

The Bill protected the rights of the author of the invention while balancing the industry’s requirement of a free market, he added.

The Opposition believed that the proposed amendments were a step in the right direction.

He questioned how the arbitrators were to be appointed and did not agree that this should fall under the competence of the minister.

It would give a better signal to industry if politicians did not interfere.

Malta already had an industry that dealt with patents, and a system that worked, the Maltese centre of arbitration. This centre already had a list of qualified people which could be used.

Dr Cardona pointed out that the same system was being used as with copyright, where the arbitrators were also appointed by the minister. The tribunal for patents would have the same power as a court of law.

Dr de Marco suggested that the appointments should be made by the President.

Winding up the debate, Dr Cardona said one of the assets in Malta’s patent office was the speed with which it issued patents. This made it cost effective.

He did not agree with the forecast that the pharmaceutical industry was at risk because there were a lot of companies in the pipeline that would be relocating to Malta. Several companies were in talks with Malta Enterprise as they wanted to expand their operations.

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