Can Sweden bring political IP unity before year’s end?

With just a little more than a month left of the Swedish EU presidency, it is time for some reflection. What has been achieved in the case of the intellectual property system during the last 6 months? The Swedish government said it would drive progress towards the much debated Community Patent and the Unified Patent Litigation System (UPLS). So, what happened? Despite years of discussions on the topic of harmonizing the prosecution and enforcement procedures of European inventions, we are still a long way from seeing white smoke billowing from the chimney. Alleged claims of cost savings of up to €289 million with an UPLS and increased patent power for sole inventors and SMEs, cannot change the fact that decisions affecting EU member states must be heavily negotiated before coming into reality. The main negotiations around the community patent/UPLS happen in the competitiveness council of the European Council in the presence of national ministers representing the topic discussed. In the case of intellectual property – a minister from each country responsible for these questions is present. Community patent/UPLS issues are being discussed a few times each year. During any presidency, the competitiveness council only meets a few times. So this means that the Swedes have quite a small chance to create political momentum and drive negotiations to reach a decision-making stage.

On December 3 and 4 of this year,  the Competitiveness Council will assemble again to see if they can reach an agreement on “a general political” approach for the community patent/UPLS efforts. The question on what language(s) should be the common one(s) for a potential community patent remains a sore spot for many member states.

At the same time as European patent legislation continues to be negotiated, the bureaucratic IP-carousel is spinning faster in the quest for a new European Patent Office president.

The Oct 30th vote at the Administrative Council of the European Patent Organization left us with little clarity who will take over when Ms Alison Brimelow leaves her job as EPO chief during 2010. There is a chance that the Swedish EU presidency will be followed by a Swedish EPO president.

Perhaps some Swedish diplomacy will bring us a step closer to IP-unity, allowing us to focus our attention at improving the European infrastructure for managing inventions, patents and their enforcement?

Danielle Lewensohn