08 September 2006

EU Commissioner McCreevy on EPLA

Charlie McCreevy, Commissioner for Internal Market and Services, gave a speech today on the future of IPR in Europe - updating in particular his plans for patents in Europe. No formal proposals were made, other than a commitment to produce a Communication before the end of the year. However, there was some more positive mood music for the EPLA.

The speech was held at an IPR Conference which was part of an informal ECOFIN Council meeting, organised by the Finnish EU Presidency.

In Brief
Commissioner McCreevy believes that the time is right to make a serious attempt to improve the IPR system in Europe. He welcomed the fact that the Finnish Presidency has singled out innovation as the key factor for Europe's future and said that a good IPR environment is, in turn, a key factor for innovation.

He praised the success of the community trade mark and, more recently, the community design, but contrasted this with the "far from satisfactory" situation regarding patents. "How can you on the one hand say we want the European economy to be the most competitive in the world when on the other hand we have a patent system that is outdated and expensive to enforce? "
McCreevy proposes a two pronged approach: advancing the Community Patent and, in parallel, involving the Community in the EPLA negotiations to bring them to finality. "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."

Community Patent
McCreevy effectively confirmed that the 2003 Common Political Approach on the Community Patent is now dead. However, he proposed no concrete alternatives other than saying that he wants to be imaginative and to "move this debate along", working with the Finnish Presidency, the upcoming German Presidency and the European Parliament. It seems, therefore, that the Commission is unwilling to give up on the Community Patent even though, without a radical breakthrough, it is unlikely to provide the short (or medium) term solution demanded by industry.

The mood music for this sounds more positive. Commissioner McCreevy recognised that the EPLA offers a unified jurisdiction for European patents and would offer valuable cost savings and increased certainty in regard to patent application. He considered that the EPLA needs Community involvement but that with an active, constructive approach by the Commission, there could be a momentum to achieve a successful outcome.

The comment that "in terms of the jurisdictional arrangements the challenges are similar for both of them" could be taken as lending support to the view held by some that if agreement can be reached on the EPLA, its structure may in turn be "adopted" by the Community Patent if agreement can be reached on that in the future.

Enforcement Directive
Commissioner McCreevy concluded with a stong plea for the implementation of the enforcement directive, which has been patchy so far.

Peter Hill, Simmons & Simmons, London

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