A new Patents Act has recently come into force in Barbados, which repeals and replaces the former law.

PCT provisions The main difference between the new and old Acts is that the new Act introduces explicit provisions for the filing and processing of PCT national phase patent applications. Although PCT national phase applications have been acceptable in Barbados for some time, there was no detailed written provision for such in the old Act. The new Act remedies this deficiency.

Term of protection In addition, the new Patents Act amends the term of granted patents.

Under the previous Act, patents were granted for a term of 15 years from the filing date, subject to the payment of annuities. A five year extension could then be obtained, if it could be shown that the invention was being sufficiently worked in Barbados, or if circumstances justifying non-use existed.

Under the new Act, a patent is granted for 20 years from the filing date, again subject to the payment of annuities (for discussion of which, see below). This provision applies to all pending applications, either which were filed before the new Act came into force (6 August 2001) or which have been filed subsequently.

The longer term also applies to patents which were granted under the former Act. In other words, a patent granted under the former Act will remain in force for 20 years from the filing date of the application, subject to the payment of renewal fees.

Annuities Under the former Act, annuities were payable ?beginning with the second year after the filing date?, and ?before the end of each year?. Our advice to clients until now has therefore been that annuities become due at the start of the second year from the filing date, and are validly payable without penalty at any time prior to the expiry of that year. We have therefore, until now, paid annuities close to the second anniversary of the filing date, and annually thereafter, i.e. towards the end of the period in which each annuity can be validly paid.

However, the new law is worded slightly differently, to the effect that annuities ?shall be paid in advance to the Director for each year, starting one year after the filing date of the application?. We have therefore decided that, in future, our policy will be to pay annuities at the start of each renewal year, not towards the end, since the first due annuity (for the second year) becomes payable on the first anniversary of the filing date. Our letters reporting the filing details of applications will, in future, reflect this change in our policy.