EPO President pleads for affordable patent, but ministers fail to reach agreement

December 2, 2003

Brussels, 01 Dec 2003

On the same day that the President of the European Patent Office (EPO) was in Brussels to address the European Parliament, the EU Competitiveness Council failed to reach agreement on the issues still blocking the implementation of a Community patent.

The difficulties centre around the period to be allowed for filing translations of a claim. While some Member States, including Germany, France and the UK, are in favour of a two year time frame, others, would like to see this period restricted to six months. The Italian Presidency is now reported to be considering putting the matter before the European Council this month.

EPO President Ingo Kober appeared to support a longer period for translations on November, claiming that more time would allow for reflection before investing in the very expensive process of having a claim translated. 'If you allow only three months [as was originally favoured by some], the patent applicant is obliged to have the translations done, as there is no time to consider whether to uphold the patent,' he said.

Mr Kober was frustrated by the decision, made in March 2003 by the Competitiveness Council, which obliges patent applicants to translate claims into all EU official languages. Estimates indicate that the costs of filing a claim could be reduced by 50 per cent if translations were made only into three languages, he said. He also claimed that it is realistic to expect ministers to limit the number of languages used for translations to three 'because these countries signed up to the London Protocol.' The London Protocol dispenses with translation requirements for those countries with English, French or German (the official languages of the EPO) as an official language, and allows other countries to dispense with translation requirements if the patent has been granted in an EPO official language of that country's choosing.

Industry too is sceptical of the proposed Community patent as it currently stands. 'Industry will not support something that is not supportive to industry, particularly to SMEs [small and medium sized enterprises],' said Mr Kober. 'That's what industry says, and that's what I support.'

The EPO President is not, however, critical of the Commission. 'I'm not blaming the European Commission. They are in a very difficult situation. They have set themselves a very difficult task to achieve, but have to sigh under the burden of unanimity,' he said.

In Brussels to voice a strong plea for an affordable, simple and reliable Community patent, Mr Kober said that his main message to the Parliament had been that 'the European Patent Office wishes to support innovation and the economy in Europe.'

CORDIS RTD-NEWS / © European Communities

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