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Official: London Agreement comes into force on 1st May

The IPjur blog, writtem by Axel Horns (who also kindly posted the news as a comment to the yesterday's blog), confirms that the German Ministry of Justice has received the French Instrument of Ratification for the London Agreement. This means that the Agreement will enter into force on 1st May 2008, so bringing with it a new era for patent applicants at the European Patent Office. It has been a long time coming, but in just over three months it will be a whole lot cheaper to secure European patent protection, despite fee increases announced by the EPO before Christmas. Of course, many European countries have not yet ratified the Agreement and a number - including the likes of Italy and Spain - may never do so. But even so, this has to be seen as a good day for patent applicants. Patent attorneys in some countries may be more ambivalent, but in the long run the best will always prosper. Next stop a single European patent jurisdiction?

STOP PRESS: For German speaking readers, here is a link to the press release from the German Ministry of Justice announcing the ratification. For non-German speakers, here is a rough translation:

Cheaper Patent Protection in Europe

Patents in Europe are set to become considerably cheaper in the future because of a reduction in translation costs. Yesterday, France filed the ratification document for the London Protocol with the Foreign Ministry in Berlin. The protocol will come into force on May 1 2008.

Justice Minister Brigitte Zypries welcomed the move as an important step towards reforming the European patent system. “This clears the way for an innovative economy to rid itself of the burden of substantial translation costs. Germany’s industrial sector applies for far more patents than any other in Europe, and small and medium-sized enterprises particularly stand to benefit. The agreement frees up additional resources for research and development, strengthening Europe’s economic position and safeguards German jobs in innovative industries.”

The signatory states to the London Agreement 2000 agreed to dispense with the requirement that patents issued by the European Patent Office in Munich be translated into their national languages. Trade associations estimate that this measure could reduce patenting costs by an average of 30%

In detail:

Signatory states whose official languages are also official languages of the European Patent Office (ie, German, French and English) may not demand a translation of any part of the patent. Other states will be allowed to require only that a certain part of the patent – the patent claim – be submitted in their official language; the patent itself need only be available in German, French or English.

Signatory states may demand a complete translation of a patent only if it is the subject of a legal dispute over patent infringement. However, patent disputes arise only very rarely in comparison with the total number of patents granted

The London Agreement, a supplementary agreement to the European Patent Agreement has been ratified by 12 states to date, including France, Germany and Great Britain. The German government strongly advocates that other countries follow their example so that the agreement can fulfil its full potential in promoting Europe’s economy.

Joff Wild
IAM Magazine
30 January 2008

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RE: Official: London Agreement comes into force on 1st May

This is very good news, especially for SMEs. We've heard time and again from our small business members that the translation costs associated with obtaining a European patent are a real problem for them. Cutting these costs will no doubt increase the incentives for small firms with limited budgets to apply for a European patent.

A while ago, I did a blog post (http://blog.actonline.org/2007/08/on-june-8-alain.html) on ex-EPO President Alain Pompidou's speech on the European patent system. In his speech, Pompidou had predicted - correctly, as it turns out - that the London Agreement would be adopted by France within the next six months.

Pompidou also said that he believes the European Patent Litigation Agreement (EPLA) will be adopted within the next three to five years.

Let's hope that Pompidou's predictions regarding the EPLA will be as spot-on as his predictions regarding the London Agreement!

Nora von Ingersleben, Association for Competitive Technology on 30 Jan 2008

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