IP NEWS

Patent Costs Lowered in Europe

02/11/2007

The cost of obtaining European patents will drop significantly in 2008 as a result of France’s move on October 10, 2007 to adopt the “London Agreement”. France’s approval was the final requirement for the Agreement to come into force, which is expected to occur by early 2008. The Agreement will reduce the number of translations required to obtain patent coverage in multiple European countries. Until now, it has been necessary to file a translation of one’s entire patent specification into the language of each country where patent protection was sought. This can be a large expense, especially for lengthy patents, given that there are 31 countries in the European Patent Convention (EPC) and some 22 languages.

Obtaining patent protection in Europe has already been greatly simplified by the EPC, under which a single application covers all 31 states of the EPC. The entire application procedure, until the final step of nationalizing the granted patent, takes place in one of the three official languages (French, German or English). The new Agreement further reduces the cost and complexity of obtaining European patents.

Under the new rules, the description portion of a European Application – usually representing the bulk of the text – need not be translated if it is already in one of the languages designated by the participating country (who may select from French, German and English). As well, any legends which form part of the drawings need not be translated. In practice, it is expected that almost all countries will permit an English language specification to remain in English. The claims must still be translated into French and German, and in some cases into additional national languages. It is expected that this reduced translation requirement will lower costs significantly, thereby overcoming a major hurdle to obtaining European patent protection.

Participation in the London Agreement is voluntary for European countries. At this point, the countries that will participate are: France, Germany, UK, Monaco, Switzerland, Netherlands, Liechtenstein, Slovenia, Iceland, Latvia, Denmark and Sweden.

The new requirements will apply to all European patent applications that are granted after the Agreement comes into force in 2008. For this reason, it may in some cases be desirable to delay prosecution of pending European applications, where possible, in order to take advantage of the new provisions.

For further information, please contact one of our patent professionals.

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