European “Community Patent” Proposal Derailed Again

by William F. Heinze*   Bio    Website

According to a recent report from Associated Press, European Union (“EU”) ministers have failed to agree on the creation of a Pan-European “Community Patent” that would have provided less-expensive protection in all 15 member nations.  Plans for getting the new system approved by the end of the year were reportedly set back when Spain, Italy, Portugal, and Greece insisted on their languages being integrated into the new system.    

The idea of the Community Patent began in 1973 with the Munich Convention on the Grant of European Patents, to which all the Member States gradually acceded.  The Munich Convention created the European Patent Office for establishing the current system of granting European patents that are ultimately subject to the national rules of the Member States designated in the application. 

Under the Luxembourg Convention on Community Patents signed in 1989, a single “Community Patent” would have provided rights throughout all of the member states of the EU.  In essence, the Luxembourg Convention would have transformed the national stages in the granting of European patents into a single stage common to all Member States.  However, the Luxembourg Convention never received the required ratification by all EU member states before it could go into effect.   

In response to the failure of the Luxembourg Convention, the European Commission published several green papers leading to the Council Regulation on the Community Patent proposed in August 2000.  Under the Commission’s proposal, Community Patents would be issued by the European Patent Office and coexist with National and European Patents.  Inventors would then be free to choose which type of patent protection best suited their needs.  

The proposal noted the cost of translating patent documents into the ten working languages of the European Union as accounting for approximately 39% of the total cost (EUR 30,000 ≈ USD 27,000) of obtaining a European Patent.  In order to address this issue, the Community patent would have been prosecuted and published in just one of the procedural languages of the European Patent Office, with a translation of the just the claims into the other two procedural languages.  

 To discuss this topic further, please contact the author, Bill Heinze, at Thomas, Kayden, Horstemeyer & Risley. The information contained in this e-mail is provided for informational purposes only and does not represent legal advice

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