Wednesday whimsies

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The decision of the Court of Appeal for England and Wales in Actavis UK Limited v Novartis AG -- which has the distinction of being the most-commented-upon ruling ever to have been posted on this weblog -- was bound to be the subject of an appeal. Sadly, a three-person panel of the Supreme Court (Justices Hope, Walker and Hale) has denied Novartis permission to appeal, so that's the end of the story.

This isn't even a story and the IPKat wasn't going to mention it, but so many kind readers have emailed him to tell him about it and ask him if he missed it that now he feels he has to say something. The European Commission is planning to do something about translating European patents. You can read all about it here. The key bit is that
"The Commission's proposal builds on the existing language regime of the EPO [that's a relief for those who were worried that the 'language inflation' tendency of OHIM might still be felt]. The Commission proposes that EU Patents will be examined and granted in one of the official languages of the EPO - English, French or German. The granted patent will be published in this language which will be the authentic (i.e. legally binding) text [Even if it's "authentic" or "legally binding", it is still open to different nuances of interpretation by those who speak it as a second language]. The publication will include translations of the claims into the other two EPO official languages. The claims are the section of the patent defining the scope of protection of the invention.

No further translations ... will be required ... except in the case of a legal dispute concerning the EU patent. In this case, the patent proprietor may be required to provide further translations at his or her own expense. ...[that's a bit tough, where the proprietor hasn't instigated the dispute in the first place]

The Commission's proposal also sets out accompanying measures to be agreed in order to make the patent system more accessible to innovators. First, high quality machine translations of EU patents into all official languages of the EU should be made available [a prototype translation machine appears, right]. Inventors in Europe will therefore have better access to technical information on patents in their native language [some cynical readers might wish to test the quality of the word "therefore"]. In addition, in order to facilitate access to the EU patent for applicants from countries in the EU that have a language other than English, French or German among their official languages, inventors will have the possibility to file applications in their own language. The costs for the translation into the language of proceedings of the EPO (to be chosen from English, French or German by the applicant when they file the application) will be eligible for reimbursement [reimbursement in full, or only to a reasonable extent?]".

If you've nothing better to do today and find yourself in Central London, why not pop in to Atlantic House, Holborn Viadact, courtesy of Hogan Lovells International LLP, to hear Cambridge IP Professor Lionel Bently speak on "The future of European copyright". It's an AIPPI gathering and you can get the details from AIPPI UK's website here. Drinks will take place afterwards. Admission is £20 for non-members, but free for members. Noting the cost of drinks in Central London these days, non-members won't need to drink too much in order to get their £20-worth.

"Member States Discuss Key Copyright Issues" is the title of a recent media release from the World Intellectual Property Organization. Essentially, WIPO Members don't share the same views on all subjects, it seems. The IPKat's favourite line is "During a late night discussion, agreed language for final conclusions proved elusive". On a more serious note, topics on which there was some progress included better access to copyright-protected works for the blind, visually impaired and other reading-disabled persons, the rights of broadcasting organizations and the rights of performers in their audiovisual performances.
Wednesday whimsies Wednesday whimsies Reviewed by Jeremy on Wednesday, July 07, 2010 Rating: 5


  1. "The costs for the translation into the language of proceedings of the EPO (...) will be eligible for reimbursement "

    Subsidy for the European patent and translation community? By whom? From what budget?
    If this is going to become true, I may start drafing in my mother tongue again instead of English (which I do to save my client translation costs).

    Furthermore, compensation is already in place as a 20% reduction of filing fee, examination fee, opposition fee and appeal fee. This reduction is in place because the Dutch gave up their right of Dutch as an official language in exchange.

    Though 20% of EUR 105 may not fully compensate the translation of a patent specification, 20% of EUR 1480 more than fully covers translation of the single sentence for requesting examination. Will this mean that the 20% reduction will be abandoned? Only for EU member states? Or also for e.g. Iceland an Norway, who may not benefit from this proposal as they are not EU member states?
    And this is only an initial proposal, Spain and Italy will probably want to be able to file responses to EPO communications in their own laguages as well.

    No matter how good the intentions of this proposal are - and I am convinced they are very good indeed - this may get very messy. Even though this may be yet another small step forward.

  2. ¿"high quality machine translations"? This is an oxymoron.

  3. I attended the "The future of European copyright" and the presentation by Professor Bently was indeedvery good. Thanks for updating the venue and details in the morning which enabled me to make it in time!

  4. The EPO began issuing about two years ago search reports accompanied by a written opinion drafted in the English language for national Italian applications; I suppose that this is the activation of an old IIB disposition. The basis for the examiner's work comprise the original application documents in Italian, a machine translation of the description part, and a human translation of the claims. To be honest, the quality of the machine translation ranges from poor to awful, with often more than one quarter of the words left untranslated. Deciphering the original documents is usually easier than the so-called "translation", so in the end it's not too different from Dutch national applications processed in their original language.

    Some in the EPO perceive this as some sort of experiment to see whether the office's language requirements could be weakened (i.e. spinning-off EPO work to offices only capable of working in one official language or less), so in a sense, if you're successful at making good sense of these applications you could at the very same time represent a threat to your own working conditions.


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