Feeds

Ministers lick problem of pan-EU patents - almost

Consensus lost in translation

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

European ministers have reached agreement on a new EU-wide patent structure after lengthy negotiations but have failed to find a way past the biggest obstacle to an EU-wide patent: the cost of translation.

Ministers have approved a new litigation system to deal with a new Europe-wide patent in a deal that will still require the approval of the European Parliament and the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU).

"The EU patent will be cost-effective and remedy the current situation where it is much more expensive to get patent protection in the EU than in our competing markets," said a statement from the Government of Sweden. Sweden currently holds the rotating leadership of some EU bodies, including the Competitiveness Council which was the forum for negotiations.

"The Council conclusions also contain the main elements of a single European Patent Court that will try cases on both the EU patent and existing European patents. This will bring about a considerable improvement compared to the current fragmented system where patent processes have to be conducted in each individual Member State, despite the fact that they are for the same invention," said the statement.

"I am very pleased that we have finally seen a political breakthrough in these difficult negotiations that have gone on for so long. I am proud that the Council has now sent a clear and unambiguous signal to Europe's innovative companies that have long been calling for an improved patent system," said Sweden's minister for trade Ewa Björling.

The agreement fails to address the most contentious issue for any single EU patent system: translation. The major cost barrier to a single system is that any patent from one country needs to be understandable in all 26 other countries. The translation costs for long and technical documents are potentially enormous.

The Commission proposed a Regulation for a Community Patent in August 2000 but progress stalled, primarily because of the translation obstacle. The proposal is now referred to as the EU Patent under the Lisbon Treaty.

The Swedish government statement said only that "the translation issue will be resolved in a special regulation".

Currently the European Patent Office (EPO) awards patents outside of any EU governmental structure. An EPO patent is based on the European Patent Convention and it is really a bundle of 27 patents which can be made live in any country by a specific application, which involves translating it into that country's language.

EPO patents, then, are only protected in the countries for which an applicant pays for a translation. The EU governing bodies have long sought to create a system whose patents would automatically be valid across Europe, but this raises the issue of language: which language should they be in, which language should disputes be conducted in and who pays for all that translation.

The European Commission has tried for a number of years to create a pan-European system, but attempts have always faltered on the issue of translation costs.

Internal Market and Services Commissioner Charlie McCreevy has led those attempts.

"I welcome this political breakthrough as a very strong signal from the Council that the EU is committed to achieve a true single market for patents," said McCreevy. "A number of issues remain to be resolved and we undertake to work closely with the Council and the Parliament towards achieving a final package that will meet the trust and confidence of users."

The CJEU is expected to rule shortly on whether the proposed litigation system conforms to EU legislation. The European Parliament will then discuss the plan.

Copyright © 2009, OUT-LAW.com

OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

New hybrid storage solutions

More from The Register

next story
Hey, Scots. Microsoft's Bing thinks you'll vote NO to independence
World's top Google-finding website calls it for the UK
Phones 4u slips into administration after EE cuts ties with Brit mobe retailer
More than 5,500 jobs could be axed if rescue mission fails
Apple CEO Tim Cook: TV is TERRIBLE and stuck in the 1970s
The iKing thinks telly is far too fiddly and ugly – basically, iTunes
Israeli spies rebel over mass-snooping on innocent Palestinians
'Disciplinary treatment will be sharp and clear' vow spy-chiefs
Huawei ditches new Windows Phone mobe plans, blames poor sales
Giganto mobe firm slams door shut on Microsoft. OH DEAR
Phones 4u website DIES as wounded mobe retailer struggles to stay above water
Founder blames 'ruthless network partners' for implosion
Found inside ISIS terror chap's laptop: CELINE DION tunes
REPORT: Stash of terrorist material found in Syria Dell box
OECD lashes out at tax avoiding globocorps' location-flipping antics
You hear that, Amazon, Google, Microsoft et al?
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.