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Bolkestein unveils plans for EU patent scheme

Internal Market Commissioner Frits Bolkestein recently announced that the Commission will set out concrete proposals for a unitary Community patent later this year.

The move would strengthen the protection of intellectual property rights, thereby encouraging innovation in Eur...
Internal Market Commissioner Frits Bolkestein recently announced that the Commission will set out concrete proposals for a unitary Community patent later this year.

The move would strengthen the protection of intellectual property rights, thereby encouraging innovation in Europe, which was recently highlighted as a top priority at the Lisbon Council summit.

Speaking at the EU Trade Mark Office in Alicante on 29 May, Mr Bolkestein said: 'The need for the protection of industrial property rights for innovation and employment and its impact on competition is crucial.'

The patents scheme would follow the successful Community trademark system, which Mr Bolkestein said has proved an important tool in protecting industrial property in Europe.

Key features of the proposed Community patent will be affordability and a guarantee of legal certainty. The Commission therefore proposes the creation of a single, centralised Community jurisdiction to deal with certain aspects of patent litigation, such as infringement and validity in the first instance and at the level of appeal.

The current European patent system established a common patent procedure that covers up to 19 European countries, and is governed by the European Patent Office in Munich. However, unlike the proposed Community patent, the European patent is not unitary. Once awarded, it is divided into several national patents that cover only the countries designated by the applicant. Governed by national laws, there is no common European authority ensuring a harmonised interpretation.

Mr Bolkestein said it would be desirable for the European Patent Office to become the sole technical operator for the future of Community patents.

In addition to the Community patent, the Commission has also been working on a range of legislative improvements to strengthen the protection of intellectual property, including the ratification of several treaties proposed by the World Intellectual Property Organisation.
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