CIPA thanked for helping to achieve positive outcome on CPTPP accession

The UK Government has formally signed the treaty to join the £12trn Pacific Rim trade bloc, the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), and has today published full details of the accession.

Published: 17 July 2023

A key aspect is the successful negotiation of a derogation of the patent grace period provision, removing uncertainties about the UK’s continued membership of the non-EU European Patent Office (EPO). This achievement underlines the Government’s commitment to the UK’s existing international intellectual property obligations while it advances global trade ties.

Adam Williams, Chief Executive Officer of the UK Intellectual Property Office, said he was grateful to CIPA and other UK IP stakeholders for their “positive engagement throughout the accession process and for their support in achieving a positive outcome”.

The CPTPP is a free trade agreement that currently includes 11 countries: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam.

The CPTPP is said to account for around 13% of the world’s GDP and to provide access to a market of nearly 500 million people. It reduces barriers to trade and investment among its members by eliminating tariffs on goods and services, establishing common rules and standards and promoting regulatory coherence.

The agreement includes provisions which protect a wide range of IP rights, including patents, trade marks, copyright, trade secrets and geographical indications and a commitment to enforce these rights, helping to create a more level playing field for businesses while promoting innovation and creativity.

The most important IP aspect of the UK’s accession is that the government has stood by its public commitment to respect the UK’s important existing international obligations, namely membership of the EPO.

The UK patent profession’s pre-eminent reputation attracts work from around the world. Around 90% of the patent applications filed at the EPO by British patent attorneys are for overseas applicants, including many from CPTPP member states. Consequently, the profession generates around £1 billion for the UK economy in gross value added and approaching £750 million in exports.

Before negotiations started, CIPA raised concerns that acceding to the CPTPP and its IP provisions in full could place at risk the UK’s vitally important membership of the EPO. The CPTPP requires its members to have a grace period for patents. But the treaty governing EPO membership, the European Patent Convention (EPC), does not include a grace period.

The UK government negotiated an accession which set aside the grace period provisions of the CPTPP until such time as the EPC (and the Strasbourg Patent Convention) incorporate amendments which will not be inconsistent with Article 18.38 (Grace Period) of the CPTPP. The UK government has committed to endeavour to promote the harmonisation of grace periods within international fora and to report back to CPTPP member states.

Details of these agreements are contained in side letters between the UK and each CPTPP member state, published today along with the full text of the accession protocol.

CIPA President Daniel Chew said: “Joining the CPTPP is an historic moment for the UK which opens doors to new trade partnerships and cements our role as an innovative global trading nation.

“We congratulate the Government and Department for Business and Trade on preserving the UK’s existing – and vitally important – international obligations around intellectual property while acceding to this milestone trade agreement.”

Adam Williams, Chief Executive Officer of the UK Intellectual Property Office, said: “I’m delighted that the UK has officially signed the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) agreement.

“A well-functioning IP environment is vital for UK businesses to be able to succeed at home; and the same is equally true for businesses looking to succeed internationally. We have a hard-earned, and well-deserved, reputation as a leading IP office with both UK industry and our international partners. Our goal is to use this reputation to help create an international IP environment that maximises the benefits of innovation, creativity and science for the UK economy and wider society.

“The UK has ensured that accession negotiations with CPTPP were consistent with the UK’s interests and the Government’s policies and priorities on intellectual property, and with the UK’s existing international obligations, including the (non-EU) European Patent Convention (EPC).”

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