UK Ministers and officials have had ongoing discussions with the European Commission and others, following the consultation launched by the Commission in 2006 on the Community Patent and other initiatives to improve the European patent system. The UK is committed to a business-friendly Community patent which imposes minimal burdens due to translations. A Community patent which is too burdensome will not be used by industry and, in a Europe with more than 20 official languages, full translation of Community patents will clearly impose high costs. We therefore hope that a reduced- or single-language solution can be found for the Community patent. However, language is understandably a highly sensitive issue, and a solution must be found which is acceptable to our European partners.
Negotiations on a Community patent have been ongoing for a number of decades, and have been complicated by questions around language and jurisdiction. As the European Commission Consultation in 2006 noted, there appears no imminent prospect of achieving the unanimity required in order to establish a community patent.
The consultation aimed to find near term steps to improve the patent system in Europe that would help us to make progress towards the long term goal of a community patent. We anticipate that the Commission will publish its communication on those next steps over the coming few months.
UK has ratified the London Agreement along with eight other states including Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands; Sweden and Denmark have made parliamentary commitments to ratify in due course. The agreement will enter into force three months after ratification by the French Government. When the London Agreement enters into force it is estimated to almost halve the translation costs that must currently be paid to patent in Europe. A French parliament report in 2006 recommended ratification, and the agreement has been ruled compatible with the French constitution, but the French Government have not yet indicated their intention to ratify.