Patents for new chemical entities and small molecules
Produced in partnership with Rouse Legal
Patents for new chemical entities and small molecules

The following Life Sciences practice note produced in partnership with Rouse Legal provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Patents for new chemical entities and small molecules
  • Compound protection and Markush claims
  • Selection inventions
  • Enantiomers
  • Salts
  • Polymorphs
  • Patentability of small molecules or NCEs
  • Breadth of scope/sufficiency
  • Inventive step
  • Utility
  • More...

This Practice Note discusses issues specific to patents for small molecules or ‘new chemical entities’ (NCEs), a subset of the types of material or method that can be the subject of pharmaceutical patents. For more information about pharmaceutical patents, see Practice Note: Pharmaceutical patents.

Brexit had no impact on the patent protection available in the UK. The UK remains part of the European patent system and can continue to be designated in European patent applications because the European Patent Office (EPO) and the European Patent Convention (EPC) (the international treaty which establishes the procedure for the granting of European patents by the EPO) are both independent of the EU. The UK has simply become another non-EU country which is a contracting state to the EPC, joining Norway, Switzerland and Turkey.

The EPO Boards of Appeal are the first and final judicial instance in procedures before the EPO (eg procedures concerning the granting of European patents). The Boards of Appeal include the Enlarged Board of Appeal (EBA) and 28 Technical Boards of Appeal (TBA). The TBA and EBA have established a body of substantive patent law which UK courts can continue to recognise as persuasive precedents, so references to TBA and EBA decisions below remain relevant.

Compound protection and Markush claims

Protection is available for a novel compound or NCE. Such compounds may be claimed individually, but they

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