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London Agreement (2000)

The London Agreement of 17 October 2000, which aims to reduce the translation costs associated with the grant of a patent under the European Patent Convention (EPC), will finally enter into force on 1 May 2008.

BACKGROUND

The European Patent Office commenced operations in 1978.  This made it possible to file a single application covering most of Europe, but after a European patent was granted it was necessary to file a full and accurate translation of the patent in each country where the patent owner wanted the patent to enter into force.  This accounted for the largest part of the cost of the so-called "validation" or "nationalization" procedures.  If the translation was not filed within the stipulated period (generally three months from grant) the European patent had no effect in the country concerned.

Although this produced high translation costs for patent owners the majority of translations were probably never consulted.

THE CHANGES

The cost of bringing European patents into force will be significantly reduced from 1 May 2008, when national translation requirements will be abolished in a number of countries. Following grant of a patent under the EPC it will no longer be necessary to file a translation in countries in which the national language is English, French or German.

France, Germany and the United Kingdom have all signed up to the Agreement, but the cost reductions will not immediately apply across the board since a number of countries have yet to join.

Countries having a different national language (e.g. the Netherlands) can designate one of the three main languages for filing the translation, but a translation of the Claims must still be filed in the national language.

We are still collecting information on the particular requirements for all the different EPC member states, but it is unlikely that national processing fees will be abolished altogether. There might be other national procedures which need to be complied with to bring the European patent into force, and it will usually be necessary to appoint a local attorney to receive any communications from the national Patent Office and pay annual maintenance fees.

It is expected that most countries will require a full translation to be filed in the national language in the event of any legal proceedings involving the patent.

The UK Intellectual Property Office has issued an announcement that the requirement to file an English translation to bring a European Patent into force in the UK will cease to have effect from 1 February 2008. This interpretation seems to be based on the fact that English translations can be filed up to three months after the date of grant, which would extend into the abolition period. This may be correct, but we would still recommend filing a precautionary English translation for European patents granted before 1 May 2008.

Craske & Co., 2008


Last updated: 27 December 2010