Brussels, 04 Mar 2003
The EU Competitiveness Council reached agreement on the creation of a Community patent on 3 March, following a compromise from the Greek Presidency.
Discussions on a Community patent have been underway since 1975, when the then EC Member States signed the 'Luxembourg Convention' on a Community patent. The patent is deemed necessary by the Commission, the Council and the research community in order to eliminate distortions to competition created by different provisions in Member States, and so as to ensure the free movement of goods protected by patents.
The agreement outlines the main features for the Community patent's jurisdictional system, the languages to be used, costs, the role of national patent offices and the distribution of fees.
According to the agreement, patent applicants must submit documents in one of the three official languages of the European Patent Office (EPO), these being English, French and German. An application can, however be filed in a non-EPO language if accompanied by a translation. The cost of the translation will then be borne by the system.
Once a patent has been granted, the recipient will be responsible for filing a translation in all official Community languages.
The EPO will retain a central role in the administration of Community patents, assuming sole responsibility for the examination of applications and the granting of Community patents. The role of national patent offices will be to advise potential applicants, forward applications to the EPO, disseminate patent information and offer advice to small and medium sized enterprises.
National patent offices operating in one of the three EPO languages and who have experience of working closely with the EPO may also carry out search work on behalf of the EPO if they wish. This will assist those national offices wishing to maintain a critical mass. Provisions will also be made to involve other national offices in search activities if problems are encountered in delivering Community patents for capacity reasons.
Ministers agreed on the creation of a unitary court, which will be responsible for ensuring uniformity of jurisprudence. The European Court of Justice shall have exclusive jurisdiction in actions and claims of invalidity or infringement proceedings as well as proceedings relating to the use of the patent and counterclaims for invalidity.
The litigation of Community patents shall take place before the Community Patent Court (CPC), which will be established by 2010 at the latest. The CPC will be attached to and located at the Court of First Instance of the European Communities. The language for such proceedings would be that of the Member State where the defendant is based unless the use of another language is requested and agreed by the CPC.
Until the CPC is created, each Member State shall designate a number of national courts to be responsible for jurisdiction in the meantime.
To read the Council conclusions, please consult the following web address: