Progress on Europe-wide community patent

Internal Market ministers agreed on set of guidelines for work on Community patent

The 15 EU ministers found an agreement on the issues of affordability, user responsiveness, legal security, procedural efficiency, simplification and non-discrimination between Community citizens.

Key issues of the agreement:

  • central role to be played by the Munich-based European Patent Office (EPO)
  • limited role for national patent offices
  • costs of patent applications to be kept at competitive level
  • on languages, principle of “non-discrimination” to apply (unclear how?)
  • certain percentage of patent fees for renewals to be distributed among Member States/national patent offices
  • appeals to be heard by Court of First Instance

 

Internal Market ministers agreed on a set of guidelines for future work on the Community patent during their Council meeting last week (30-31 May 2001). The new patent will eliminate the need to apply for patents in individual Member States and would significantly reduce the cost burden for small and medium-sized companies to get protection for their inventions.

 

The European Commission proposed the creation of a Community patent on 5 July 2000. Under the new system, companies and inventors would have the choice of either obtaining a single EU-wide patent that is valid throughout the European Union or applying for a national patent via their national patent offices. The Community patent would co-exist with the the national and current European patent systems.

Currently, European patents are granted by the European Patent Office in Munich, but they are very expensive (mainly because of translation costs) and there is still a lot of legal uncertainty over these patents. The high cost of patenting in Europe is often seen as one of the reasons why Europe is lagging behind the US and Japan in the development of the knowledge-based economy.

 

The proposal for a regulation is currently also being discussed in the European Parliament (Legal Affairs Committee - Rapporteur Ana Palacio Vallelersundi, EPP/ED Group, Spain). The Committee is expected to vote on the report on 11 September 2001.

 

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