01 July 2010

EU Commission's Proposal for EU Patent Language Regime is Doomed to Fail

The translation regime currently is a major obstacle to the EU Patent, as Margot Fröhlinger, Director of Knowledge-Based Economy inside the DG Internal Market of the European Commission, explained last month at the IP Business Congress in Munich, where she also announced that the adoption of a proposal for a language regine is planned on June 30, 2010.

Yesterday, the European Commission published its proposed translation arrangements for a future EU Patent:
The Commission's proposal builds on the existing language regime of the EPO. The Commission proposes that EU Patents will be examined and granted in one of the official languages of the EPO - English, French or German. The granted patent will be published in this language which will be the authentic (i.e. 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.
However, as Ms Fröhlinger further explained, this proposal probably has only very little chances to be adopted by the member states, since there is a strong Southern European group that will not accept an EU patent based only on claim versions in three predetermined languages. This strong group appears to comprise at least Spain and Italy, such that the patent attorneys in these countries will continuously enjoy a comfortable living providing translations for their clients.

In this context, it is speculated on the IPJur blog, that it is no accident that the language proposal was published exactly just on the first day of Belgian EU Presidency, since the outgoing presidency had been controlled by the Spanish Government, and that is the instance that pleases itself by some sort of non-stop performance as European troublemaker concerning the languages issue.

As is emphasised on the IAM blog, European companies - employing tens of millions of Europeans and generating billions of Euros/pounds/dollars etc in revenues in Europe and beyond - will be disappointed should the EU patent project end up on the scrapheap, given that it has the potential to save them significant amounts of time and money, and provide them with greater legal certainty.