Belgian Office for Intellectual Property issues practice note on the calculation of the duration of SPCs

The Belgian Office for Intellectual Property recently issued a circular letter (here in Dutch and here in French) providing details on the calculation of the duration of SPCs in view of the CJEU Seattle Genetics (C-471/14) and Incyte (C-492/16) decisions.  Stijn Lagaert of Gevers provides below an overview of the practice at the Belgian office.

Background
In 2015, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) issued a decision in C-471/14 (Seattle Genetics). As discussed in more detail here, it ruled that the date for calculating the SPC duration is the date of notification of the decision granting Marketing Authorization (MA), rather than the decision date itself. While Belgium previously already calculated the duration based on the notification date of EU marketing authorizations, it issued a 2016 circular letter to detail its practice. More recently, the CJEU provided more details about the correction of SPC durations that were granted based on the decision date (C-492/16 – Incyte). 

Circular letter of March 2018
The Belgian Office for Intellectual Property has recently issued a circular letter providing further details about the practice in Belgium in relation to the date of the MA. While the practice remains the same for an MA granted by the European Commission (i.e. the notification date published in the Official Journal), the circular letter is perhaps more interesting in relation to the notification date of a national MA. The Belgian Office states that it will consider the date of the decision to be the date of the MA if there is no official publication of the notification date. The applicant has the option to provide proof that it was only notified at a later date in order to use that notification date as the date of the MA. 

Fellow practitioners will appreciate that the circular letter links its practice for the ‘date of the MA’ to both Art. 7 and Art. 13 of the SPC Regulations. Thus, the Belgian Office will use the notification date both for the calculation of the SPC duration and for calculating the deadline for filing the SPC application.  

After Seattle Genetics, some SPC specialists cautioned that the CJEU decision only ruled in relation to the date used for determining the duration of the SPC (Art. 13), but did not necessarily read on the grant date of the MA for the calculation of the deadline for filing the SPC application (Art. 7). In addition, it did not provide guidelines for determining the notification date of national MAs, beyond referring to national law. These issues were e.g. raised by Mike Snodin and Michael Pears. The circular letter provides some welcome clarifications about both aspects, at least under Belgian practice. 

Advice
As the notification date of a national MA will likely be a few days after its decision date, we suggest saving and filing proof of the date of notification in these instances to enjoy the longer SPC duration in Belgium. The proof can be an official publication of the notification date or any other proof. This is of course only relevant in those cases were the national MA is the first to place the product on the European market.

 

Click here to find more info about SPCs or contact our expert, Stijn Lagaert