Manual of Patent Practice

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Section 277: Persons entitled to describe themselves as European patent attorneys, &c

Section (277.01 - 277.04) last updated: April 2011

277.01

Article 134 of the European Patent Convention (EPC) provides that professional representation in proceedings under the Convention may only be undertaken by persons whose names appear on the list maintained for the purpose by the European Patent Office (the “European list”). This section provides that an individual who is on the European list is allowed to use the title “European patent attorney” or “European patent agent” (EPA). It also relates to the composition of partnerships and bodies corporate practising as EPA’s in a similar manner to section 276 in respect of UK patent attorneys. The section replaced section 84 of the Patents Act 1977 but with changes parallelling the relaxation of rules governing practice as a UK patent attorney. In particular, it is no longer an offence under UK law for a person not on the European list to carry out the functions of an EPA although such people will be prevented by the operation of the EPC from being recognised as agents.

 
Section 277(1)
The term “European patent attorney” or “European patent agent” may be used in the following cases without any contravention of section 276.
 
Section 277(2)
An individual who is on the European list may ­
(a) carry on business under a name or other description which contains the words “European patent attorney” or “European patent agent”, or
(b) otherwise describe himself, or permit himself to be described, as a”European patent attorney” or “European patent agent”.

277.02

Subsection (1) provides that section 276 is not contravened by the use of the titles “European patent attorney” and “European patent agent” in the cases set out in the following subsections. Paragraph (a) of subsection (2) provides that a person may carry on a business using these titles if he is entered in the European list. Paragraph (b) relates to the act of otherwise describing oneself or permitting oneself to be described as an EPA.

 
Section 277(3)
A partnership of which not less than the prescribed number or proportion of partners is on the European list may ­
(a) carry on a business under a name or other description which contains the words “European patent attorneys” or “European patent agents”, or
(b) otherwise describe itself, or permit itself to be described, as a firm which carries on the business of a “European patent attorney” or “European patent agent”.
 
Section 277(4)
A body corporate of which not less than the prescribed number or proportion of directors is on the European list may ­
(a) carry on a business under a name or other description which contains the words “European patent attorney” or “European patent agent”, or
(b) otherwise describe itself, or permit itself to be described as, a company which carries on the business of a “European patent attorney” or “European patent agent”.

277.03

Subsections (3) and (4) relate to the activities of partnerships and bodies corporate. They may use the titles “European patent attorney” or “European patent agent” if a prescribed number or proportion of partners or directors are on the European list. ‘Directors’ may include ‘members’ in accordance with section 286. Paragraphs (a) and (b) of each subsection mirror paragraphs (a) and (b) of subsection (2).

 
Section 277(5)
Where the term “European patent attorney” or “European patent agent” may, in accordance with this section, be used in reference to an individual, partnership or body corporate, it is equally permissible to use other expressions in reference to that person, or to his business or place of business, which are likely to be understood as indicating that he is entitled to be described as a “European patent attorney” or “European patent agent.”

277.04

The entitlement extends to other expressions likely to be understood as indicating a right to be described as a European patent attorney or European patent agent, for example “European patent agency”.