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McCreevy Discusses IP In Helsinki

by Ulrika Lomas, for, Brussels

12 September 2006

Speaking at an informal ECOFIN Council meeting held in Helsinki last week, Internal Market Commissioner, Charlie McCreevy stated that the time has come to make a serious attempt to improve the IPR system in Europe.

He announced that:

"The Finnish Presidency has rightfully singled out innovation as the key factor for Europe's future. A good IPR environment in turn is a key factor for innovation."

He continued:

"It is D-day for Europe when it comes to intellectual property protection...we are at the crossroads facing new IPR challenges. Looking outwards, we are facing continuous, and not always equal competition from the US and Japan, but also from emerging economic super-powers like China or India. Looking inwards, to measure the important challenges we are now facing, it is instructive to compare European trade marks' and patents' regulatory frameworks."

Against this background, the Commission launched a broad consultation on the future of patent policy in Europe.

McCreevy told ministers attending the meeting that:

"The results of the consultation leave no doubt that there is an overwhelming desire for a patent system which is simpler, more cost-effective and which maintains the highest standards in the quality of its examination and grant procedures. What industry wants is a one-stop-shop. People don't care how this is achieved. But they want action."

"I agree. I believe the time has come to make a concerted push to improve the patent system in Europe. In my view we should take a two pronged approach: Firstly, I want to bring fresh ideas to the table to advance the Community Patent. Secondly, in parallel, I want to involve the Community in the EPLA negotiations and bring them to finality."

"It is clear from the consultation that stakeholders reject the current Community Patent deal on the table – the 2003 Common Political Approach. In their view, it does not offer what I just pointed out: a unitary, affordable and competitive patent offering greater legal certainty through a unified Community jurisdiction."

"I want to work with the opportunity presented by the Finnish Presidency and its focus on innovation to move this debate along. Together with this Presidency, the upcoming German Presidency as well as the European Parliament I am willing to be imaginative."

In parallel to the Community Patent, the Internal Market Commissioner revealed that industry has called for the Community’s involvement in the European Patent Litigation Agreement (EPLA).

He explained that:

"Hundreds of thousands of patents have already been granted by the European Patent Office. The jurisdiction is fragmented. The EPLA offers a unified jurisdiction for these patents. I believe this is a goal worth pursuing. It would offer valuable cost savings and increase certainty in regard to patent application."

"To be effective, the EPLA needs Community involvement. It addresses shared responsibilities between Member States and the Community. With an active, constructive approach by the Commission, I believe we could provide a momentum to achieve a successful outcome."

"The Community Patent and the EPLA are not mutually exclusive initiatives. They are both aiming for the same goal: a better, cheaper, more reliable patent system. That's why I want to pursue both. In terms of the jurisdictional arrangements the challenges are similar in both of them too: Find a unified system which gives clarity and reliability to industry while avoiding both overcentralisation and fragmentation."

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