A patently obvious move

Europe moved a step closer to having a fully integrated patent judiciary this week. The draft European Patent Litigation Agreement (EPLA) gained momentum after internal markets commissioner Charlie McCreevy gave his support to the proposal. If implemented, it would create a common litigation court.

Although trademarks have a pan-European registrar and central court, patents do not. Patents can be filed centrally at the European Patent Office (EPO) but not litigated in a central court. One of the hurdles to pan-European patent integration has been language. France has long said ‘non’ to the London Protocol, which would allow patents to be filed in English, German or French rather than in all 21 EU languages.

But EPO president Alain Pompidou hinted that France was finally ready to sign after substantial international pressure, boosting hopes for a unified approach to patents.

It has come at an important time. With China’s IP system developing at pace, Europe is in need of a united front to promote innovation and strengthen IP rights just to keep up.