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The present state of the European patent system

A study on the European patent system, entitled "The present state of the patent system in the European Union as compared with the situation in the United States of America and Japan", has been prepared with support from the Community's INNOVATION programme.

The study, conduc...
A study on the European patent system, entitled "The present state of the patent system in the European Union as compared with the situation in the United States of America and Japan", has been prepared with support from the Community's INNOVATION programme.

The study, conducted by Prof. Dr. Joseph Straus of the Max Planck Institute for Foreign and International Patent, Copyright and Competition Law (Germany), examines the current provisions for patent protection in the EU and the arguments in favour of a European-wide patent protection system.

The deficiencies of the present European patent system, still largely determined by the European Patent Convention which entered into force in 1977, are highlighted by a number of empirical studies. These include, essentially, the relatively high-cost for the user and the low propensity, especially of SMEs to make use of the system. This situation is briefly compared with that of the United States and Japan where patent protection is not affected by any kind of fragmentation.

Despite the existence of an internal market, the European Union has only succeeded so far in establishing a Community Trademark and a Community Plant Variety Rights System, but not a Community Patent. Thus, the potentially most important industrial property right, instead of providing incentives for EU-wide innovation and integration, may prove in many instances to be an obstacle.

The report concludes that, in order to establish a truly operational Community patent system, the EU should take appropriate action, as soon as possible, to transfer both the European Patent Convention (EPC) and the Agreement relating to Community Patents (ACP) into the Community legal order following the examples of the Community Trademark and the Community Plant Variety Rights.

Source: European Commission, DG XIII

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