There are several differences between the previous Act and the revised Act, which have implications for any new or existing patent applications or granted patents in Belize.

Novelty There is now a requirement of absolute novelty in Belize. Thus, for all new applications apart from re-registration patent applications filed under the transitional provisions of the revised Act (see below), the subject invention must not have been disclosed anywhere in the world, in any way, before the filing date (or priority date, if applicable) of the Belize application.

Re-registration applications In connection with the new requirement of absolute novelty, and as reported previously, the revised law does not provide for the filing of applications for revalidation of foreign granted patents in Belize. However, the transitional provisions of the revised Act do allow a window of a year from the date of commencement of the revised Act, in which time proprietors of foreign UK or European(UK) patents can apply for revalidation of their patents.

We previously believed the transitional provisions to expire on 31 December 2001, but it now appears that this date will be 4 January 2002. However, we ask that you kindly provide us with any instructions at least a month before that date, whenever possible, so that we can ensure that applications are put on file in Belize before expiry of the transitional provisions.

Exclusions from patentability The revised Act lists several exclusions from patentability in Belize. Of particular note is the exclusion of methods of treatment of the human or animal body by surgery or therapy, as well as diagnostic methods practised on the human or animal body. This exclusion does not extend to products for use in any of these methods. We therefore suggest that claims relating to methods of treatment be drafted in the form: ?Substance X for use in a method of treating disease Y? (in cases where Substance X has not been disclosed for use in the treatment of any such method in the prior art), or as Swiss-style claims (?Use of Substance X in the manufacture of a medicament for treating disease Y?).

PCT Patent Applications The revised Patents Act explicitly implements and gives full effect to the Patent Co-operation Treaty (PCT), so that PCT national phase applications in Belize will now be processed. Previously, such applications were accepted, but were simply accorded a filing date and held in abeyance in anticipation of the revised law.

Please note that, although PCT national phase applications will now be processed in Belize, it is likely that the prosecution may be slow, since the Registry is relatively unfamiliar with the PCT procedure.

The international filing date is counted as the effective filing date for all national phase applications which are validly filed in Belize before the deadline of 21 months (Chapter I) or 31 months (Chapter II) from the earliest priority date.

Divisional applications Divisional applications may be filed at any time whilst the parent application is still pending, but must not include any matter which was not disclosed in the initial application as filed.

Term of protection and payment of annuities The revised Patents Act introduces a term of protection for patents of 20 years from the filing date, subject to the payment of annuities. This term also applies to patents which were granted under the old Act, and such patents will therefore remain in force for the unexpired portion of the term provided for under the revised Act, again subject to the payment of annuities.

In respect of applications filed under the new Act (i.e. since 5 January 2001), annuities are payable annually on the anniversary of the filing date in Belize, although they can be paid late, within a period of grace of 6 months, along with a late fine. In respect of applications based on granted UK/EP(UK) patents filed during the transitional period of 1 year from the date of commencement of the revised Act, the date of filing in Belize will be deemed to be the UK/EP(UK) filing date. We assume that in such cases, however, annuities only become payable after the date that the application was lodged at the Registry.

The requirement to pay annuities also applies to applications filed and registrations granted under the old Patents Act. Such annuities are payable from the date of grant in Belize - on the anniversary of the UK/EP(UK) filing date in respect of re-registrations, and on the anniversary of the filing date in Belize in respect of substantive applications.

Utility Models The revised Act provides for the grant of utility model certificates in Belize, which have a seven year term calculated from the filing date. The requirements for a utility model application are less stringent than those for a full patent - the invention must simply be new and industrially applicable in order to qualify for the former type of protection.

Representation The revised Patent Law requires foreign applicants to be represented by an attorney-at-law who is resident and practising in Belize. However, the Registrar has used his discretion to waive this requirement for the time being, such that we are able to continue representing foreign applicants. Nevertheless, we may still require the services of a local agent in the case of urgent deadlines, for the purpose of paying the official fees due or filing urgent documents.

If you have any queries on any of the above points, please do not hesitate to contact us.