France ratifies the London Agreement

France has formally communicated its ratification of the London Agreement. This at last clears the way for the Agreement to come into force, which will happen on 1 May 2008. The consequent savings on translation costs will have a significant practical impact for patentees in those European Patent Convention states which are party to the London Agreement.

The European Patent Office (“EPO”) acknowledges that translation costs can account for between 20% and 40% of the cost of filing for patent protection in Europe. As an example of the impact of the London Agreement, the EPO describes a situation where the patentee applies for a patent in seven states, five of which are parties to the London Agreement. The reduction in translation costs for a typical patent could be as much as 45%. As more states become party to the London Agreement, patent proprietors will be able to validate their patents in a greater number of states without having to meet almost prohibitive translation costs.

What does the London Agreement say?
A state which is a party to the London Agreement and whose official language is French, German or English (the official languages of the EPO), agrees to dispense with the patent translation requirements for the full patent. However, the patent claims will always be available in the three EPO languages. Other states which are parties to the Agreement will dispense with the full translation requirements if the patent is available in the EPO official language prescribed by that state. Only when this is not the case will a full translation of the full patent specification into the relevant national language be required. These states will continue to have the right to require a translation of the claims into one of their official languages.

In the event of a dispute relating to a European patent, a state can require the patentee (at the patentee’s expense) to supply a full translation into that state’s official language following a request made either by the alleged infringer or by the court.

To which countries will the London Agreement apply?
From 1 May, the London Agreement will apply to all states which have both ratified it and deposited their instruments of ratification. As of today, these are Germany, the UK, France, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Iceland, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Croatia, Slovenia and Switzerland. Denmark and Sweden have made provision to amend their respective Patent Acts but have so far delayed deposit of their instruments of ratification. It is expected that many more EPC countries will ratify the Agreement now that the French have done so.

Click here for the London Agreement text, and for other background documents, see this blog at the right side under under “EPLA, everything you always wanted to know but were unable to find).

Rowan Freeland, Simmons & Simmons, London

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