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European Commission proposes to cut EU patent costs
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01/07/2010 00:00:00

A proposal to drastically reduce existing translation costs for EU patents was published today by the European Commission.  The measures are the final element needed for an EU patent to become a reality, making it more affordable for innovators to protect their inventions with a single patent covering the entire EU territory, with minimum translation costs and without needing to validate the patent at a national level. 

Under today's proposal the processing costs for an EU Patent covering 27 member states would be less than 6,200 euro (5,024 GBP), of which only 10% would be due to translations.

The cost of obtaining a patent in Europe currently costs ten times more than one in the US which discourages research, development and innovation, and undermines Europe's competitiveness.

Internal Market and Services Commissioner Michel Barnier said the proposal was good news for Europe's innovators and small businesses in particular.  He said:   "For Europe to be competitive globally, we need to encourage innovation. That's not the case today – it is far too expensive and complicated to obtain a patent. An EU Patent valid in all EU countries is crucial to stimulate research and development and will drive future growth."

He added:  "I now hope that member states will act quickly to ensure the EU patent becomes a reality"

The Commission proposes EU Patents be examined and granted in one of the official languages of the European Patent Office (EPO) - English, French or German. The granted patent will be published in this language which will be the authentic (ie legally binding) text. The publication will include translations of the claims into the other two EPO official languages. The claims are the section of the patent defining the scope of protection of the invention.

No further translations into other languages will be required from the patent proprietor except in the case of a legal dispute concerning the EU patent. In this case, the patent proprietor may be required to provide further translations at his or her own expense. For example, the proprietor may have to supply a copy of the patent into the language of an alleged infringer, or into the language of the court proceedings when this is different from the language of the patent.

The Commission's proposal also sets out accompanying measures to be agreed in order to make the patent system more accessible to innovators.

First, high quality machine translations of EU patents into all official languages of the EU should be made available. Inventors in Europe will therefore have better access to technical information on patents in their native language.

In addition, to facilitate access to the EU patent for applicants from EU countries that do not have English, French or German among their official languages, inventors will have the possibility to file applications in their own language.

The costs for the translation into the language of proceedings of the EPO (to be chosen from English, French or German by the applicant when they file the application) will be eligible for reimbursement.

    Existing situation for patents in Europe

    The current European patent system, particularly in terms of translation requirements, is very expensive and complex. The EPO – an intergovernmental body which includes 37 countries (EU 27 + 10 other European countries) – examines applications for a patent and is responsible for granting a European Patent if the relevant conditions are met. But for the granted patent to be effective in a member state, the inventor then has to request validation at national level. This implies translation and administrative costs.

    Because of the costs involved, most of the inventors only patent their invention in a very limited number of member states. A European Patent validated for example in 13 countries costs as much as 20,000 euro (16,208 GBP), of which nearly 14,000 euro (11,346 GBP) arises from translations alone. This makes a European Patent more than 10 times more expensive than an American patent which costs about 1,850 euro (1,499 GBP).

    Negotiations on the EU Patent

    The Commission proposed a Regulation for a Community Patent in August 2000 (now referred to as the EU Patent under the Lisbon Treaty). In December 2009, member states unanimously adopted conclusions on an enhanced patent system in Europe (see IP/09/1880).

    The agreement covered the main features both of a new patent court in Europe and the future EU Patent, but excluding the translation arrangements. However, member states agreed that the translations for the EU Patent would form part of a separate Regulation.

    The Commission has therefore presented this proposal concerning the translation arrangements for the EU Patent which completes the necessary package.

    On the new patent court, an opinion from the European Court of Justice on the compatibility of the draft Agreement with the EU Treaties is awaited later this year.

    More information is available at:

    MEMO 291


    For more information, please contact the London press office on 020 7973 1971.

    Please note: all amounts expressed in sterling are for information purposes only.

    Last update: 31/10/2010  |Top