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McCreevy Comments On Results Of IP Consultation

by Ulrika Lomas, for, Brussels

03 October 2006

Speaking last Thursday at the European Parliament's Plenary Session in Strasbourg, Internal Market Commissioner, Charlie McCreevy outlined some of the findings of a recent consultation on Europe's IP regime.

He told MEPs that:

"The Community Patent remains blocked in the Council. But recognising the economic importance of patents, I felt it was not a good thing to leave the entire patent agenda in limbo. So, earlier early this year, as you know, I launched a broad consultation of all interested parties on future patent policy in Europe."

"The consultation has shown that industry favours the Commission's effort to simplify the patent system in Europe and to make it more cost-effective. There are two major issues here, languages – or translation costs - on the one hand and the jurisdictional system on the other hand. There is strong support for the introduction of a Community patent."

"However, industry is not enamoured of the political compromise reached in the Council in 2003 on the Community patent. It rejects the proposed solutions on both language and the jurisdictional system. Because they don't achieve the cost reductions and simplification of the patent system that industry is calling for."

"In parallel, there is a strong call for the improvement of the existing European Patent system, established by the Munich convention, by the successful conclusion of a European Patent Litigation Agreement (EPLA) on jurisdiction and by the ratification and entry into force of the London Agreement on the language regime."

McCreevy went on to add that:

"It is interesting to note that no single initiative for the improvement of the EU patent system received the unanimous support from the stakeholders. Different stakeholder highlight different aspects and many suggest that what is needed is a package of different measures which they believe should be implemented in parallel."

"I am therefore convinced that we need to take a multi-facetted approach. In order to succeed, we should tackle all the patent issues in one package. This package will have to respond to stakeholders' criticism and needs. We will only succeed if we can demonstrate that what we propose will have added value compared to the status quo, in particular on costs of patenting (translation costs) and legal certainty (jurisdictional system)."

"We are currently working on the options for the way forward and will present them in a communication and action plan which the Commission should adopt before the end of this year."

He stressed that a key component of the EC's work concerns the jurisdictional issue. At present, although business has a one-stop shop where it can acquire a patent – the EPO – it may find itself defending the patent on several fronts at once. This is because the patents granted by the European Patent Office are in fact a bundle of national patents and can only be enforced by national courts.

"I think we need to tackle this issue as a matter of urgency; the current "patchwork" may prevent patent holders from being able to enforce their rights, and discourages candidates, in particular SMEs looking for efficient and affordable patent protection from using the European patent. Europe is, at present, not able to offer innovative businesses an optimal solution when it comes to protecting their intellectual property. We cannot aspire to be the most competitive economy in the world if we do not find practical workable solutions to patent application and protection," the Internal Market Commissioner stated.

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