"Where are we now?" is the question on everyone's lips when it comes to the long trek from national patents alone to the desired destination, the Promised Land of the single patent for the European Union and a centralised and harmonised patent litigation system. Explaining the background, Oliver Varhelyi (Head of Unit, DG Internal Market and Services, European Commission) described the legal bases on which the form and substance of the agreed new regime could be reached through a combination of unanimous and majority votes.
Thursday, 8 April 2010
The legality of the new proposals, which combine EU activities with those of the European Patent Organisation -- a non-EU entity -- is the subject of a reference to the Court of Justice in respect of which the Advocate General's Opinion is due in late May, the Court's advice a couple of months later. Oliver believes that this initiative has every chance of going ahead, but further details remain to be agreed: fee levels and the new system's operating language(s). Why is Oliver so convinced that the language issue is going to be settled? Discussions have continued with the most sensitive Member States" (= France) and, he adds, "we are sticking to our guns" -- which some might guess to be aimed at Paris.
First panellist to speak was emeritus IPKat Professor Johanna Gibson (Queen Mary Intellectual Property Research Institute), pressing Oliver for further confirmation of the likelihood of success of this essential federal project and of the true degree of industrial support for the new scheme. Without naming any specific industrial sectors, Oliver felt that their various interests had all been addressed. Moderating the session, David Perkins (Arnold & Porter) thought that 2016 was the target indicated from the Commission, a date which was described both as optimistic and pessimistic by other panellists. Lord Hoffmann asked why European patents and EU patents had to be yoked together: the answer was, it seemed, "because they have to". Creating a court just for European patents in the EU would be a waste of effort.