Issue 64 | April 4, 2003
Second Update:
European Community Patent Proposal
 On February 27, 2003, we informed you that the latest "European 'Community Patent' Proposal" called for a centralized patent enforcement court, translation of patent specifications into one of the three working languages of the European Union ("EU"), and translation of patent claims into all of the EU's official languages. As expected, the EU Competitiveness Council reached agreement for the creation of a Community Patent on March 3, 2003.

Under the agreement, the European Patent Office (EPO) will alone be responsible for examination of applications and the grant of Community Patents. However, applications for Community Patents may be filed with the National Patent Office of a Member State in its working language(s). At the request of the applicant, National Patent Offices of Member States having an official language other than the three official languages of the EPO may carry out any task up to and including novelty searches in their respective language(s). In addition, National Patent Offices of Member States having one of the three EPO languages as their official language and "experience of cooperation with the EPO" may carry out search work on behalf of the EPO in order to "maintain a critical mass."

The litigation of Community Patents will take place before a three-member judicial panel, called the Community Patent Court ("CPC"), to be established by 2010. Until then, each Member State will designate a limited number of national courts having jurisdiction over patent matters. Once established, the CPC will conduct proceedings in the official language of the Member State where the defendant is domiciled, in the one chosen by the defendant where the State has two or more official languages, or any other official language upon agreement of the parties and consent of the CPC. The CPC may also hold hearings in Member States other than that in which it is seat is located.

According to a March 3 report from Reuters, Germany, which wanted a greater role for national EU courts, withdrew its objections and backed the CPC after it was granted until the end of the decade to implement the new system. Although technical details still have to be worked out before formal adoption of the law expected later this year, the proposed changes are expected to reduce the cost of obtaining patent protection throughout Europe from 50,000 to 25,000 euros, a savings of approximately US$27,000.

Even so, not everyone is pleased with the agreement. According to a March 12 report from CORDIS RTD-NEWS, part of the European Commission's "Community Research and Development Information Service," the Union of Industrial and Employers' Confederations of Europe ("UNICE") has already questioned the 7-year transition period, the cost of translating patent claims into all European languages, and the quality of prior art searches to be done by the national patent offices. With over thirty-years of political concessions behind the Community Patent initiative, more compromises may be ahead before the new system is implemented.

To discuss this topic further, please contact the author, Bill Heinze, at Thomas, Kayden, Horstemeyer & Risley.

The information contained in this email is provided for informational purposes only and does not represent legal advice. Neither the APLF nor the author intends to create an attorney client relationship by providing this information to you through this message.