EU patent

After having had a debate on the issue of a Community patent for almost 40 years without a real result, the EU now wants to speed up the discussion. The Community patent is supposed to become one of the visible cornerstones of the new EU innovation strategy which has to be approved by the Council in autumn.

Upon request of the Council, the European Commission (EC) proposed on 1 July a translation system for the Community patent based on the three principle languages of the European Patent Office (EPO), which are English, French and German. The goal of using only these three languages is to reduce translation costs and to make patenting in Europe more competitive compared to the US and Japan. According to EC estimations the Community patent would cost no more than €6’200 of which only 10% for transla- tion. A European patent validated in 13 countries currently costs up to €20’000, of which nearly €14’000 in translation alone, which makes it ten times more expensive than a US patent.

The language regime for the Community patent will be the main problem the Council has to overcome. For the other pestering issue, the patent litigation system, the Council agreed already on 4 December 2009 on a proposal for a single patent court system.

As the adoption has to be unanimous, it will be crucial that Spain and Italy can be convinced to give up their opposition against the language rules which they consider discriminatory, as Spanish and Italian are not foreseen as official languages. Some other critics say that it is a mistake that the EU patent should exist in parallel to the current national and European patents. They propose that EPO and national patent offices should stop granting patents as soon as the EU patent exists. Some critics also argue that special provisions and reductions in entry fees should be made for young technology based companies applying for an EU patent or for SMEs in general (e.g. by creating special schemes for SMEs like in Japan and the US). (Source: SwissCore Synopsis 2010/7).