Friday, December 08, 2006

On the European Patent Litigation Agreement [EPLA]

Richard Davis wrote in LegalWeek: A centralised European patent court came a step closer at the beginning of November, following the publication of draft rules of procedure by a committee of European patents judges. In the light of the progress of any European harmonisation so far, those in the UK patent profession should not, however, hold their breath.

Davis moves from the London Agreement (single language issue) to software patents:

A clear possible consequence of the adoption of the London Agreement is that more European patents will be validated in more states. This would seem to make the introduction of the European Patent Litigation Agreement (EPLA) more likely. However, there are powerful interest groups opposed to EPLA.

A particularly vocal opponent is the ‘No Software Patents’ brigade. This lobby group holds the very strong view that a European Patent Court would introduce and expand on software patents via the back door. The influence of this group should not be underestimated and it should be recalled that it was instrumental in causing the rejection of the software patent directive. The principal reason for this group’s opposition is due to the fact the EPO regularly grants software patents and this is seen as being different from the situation before the national courts such as those of Germany and the UK.

BusinessWeek wrote:

Brussels is seeking a common EU patent law under which a patent filed in one member state would be valid all across the bloc, instead of the current and costly system where persons or companies seeking a patent in the entire union have to translate patents into several languages and fight infringements in each member state's courts.

EU internal market commissioner Charlie McCreevy, who is responsible for the upcoming proposal, told ministers on Monday that "it's clear that more time is needed to look at all options".

But he added that there was nothing new coming from the ministers saying that he had "a feeling we have been down this road before and [I] have a great sense of deja vu."


The EPO has since 1977 granted European patents, which are bundled with national patents subject to national grant procedures.

The EU is not part of the EPO although all EU member states - except for Malta - are members of the organisation. Bulgaria, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Romania, Switzerland and Turkey are also members.

Since the 1970s, there have been parallel discussions towards the creation of an EU community patent. It came to a complete standstill in 2004 after EU ministers failed to agree on various issues, and mainly on the question of time delays for translations claims.

Mr McCreevy wants the European bloc to become part of EPLA, which is a deal drafted by the EPO.


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