The revised European Patent Convention (EPC) finally came into effect today – nearly a decade after it was first agreed that an overhaul of the system was needed.
The convention applies to 32 member states of the European Patent Organisation (EPO) and will provide a new legal framework for patent protection.
EPO's president Alison Brimelow claimed that the modifications would simplify the process of patent protection Europe-wide.
In 1998, the EC reached an agreement to review potential legal and technical changes to the EPC.
Intensive discussions followed before the EPC Final Act was inked in 2000 in which it was agreed that once the fifteenth contracting state had ratified and acceded to the revised text the EPC 2000 would come into being two years later. Greece was the fifteenth state to do so on 13 December 2005.
But progress in bringing the final version of the new convention had been stalled by disagreements over requirements for the translation of patents as well as on how infringements of patents, which might arise as a result of mistranslations, should be treated.
Brimelow reckons the EPO has now nailed that particular discussion. She said: "The new EPC can also be adapted to new legal developments, and in particular to future Community law, more easily than the old convention."
That hinges on the fact that patent applications can now be filed in any language as long as they are then subsequently translated into English, French, or German.
Another key feature of the new convention includes the so-called limitation procedure which gives inventors the opportunity to restrict the scope of their patents across all contracting states, rather than only within the country concerned.
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