New Agreement Will Cut the Expense of Protecting Intellectual Property Rights; the Knowledge Driven Economy

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Byline: Dominic Elsworth

ANEW agreement over European patent procedures is set to halve costs for UK businesses seeking to protect their intellectual property rights across all 31 European states, following France's signing of the London Agreement, which comes into force on May 1 this year.

Up until then a company granted a European patent must be validated in each country where the owner of the patent wishes it to be in force.

This means that a business seeking protection across all 31 of the member states must bear the cost of having what can be a lengthy and technically complex document translated into up to 22 languages.

After the agreement comes into force, states which have declared English, French or German as their official language will opt out of the translation requirements, meaning that a European patent will cover the 10 largest European states without the need for translations to be filed in individual countries.

The agreement comes following the activities of a European working party set up to look at reducing translation costs by 50%, after research showed that the high cost of European patent protection was having a detrimental effect on innovation.

This is good news for UK businesses which seek to protect their intellectual property rights across Europe. Their patent budgets will go significantly further when the agreement comes into force.

Having a patent translated into seven European languages - the average number of translations per application - can easily cost upward of pounds 5,000. The agreement effectively reduces those costs by 45%, which will encourage companies and individuals to file more extensive European patents that protect their rights outside the UK. This will free up more of their research and development budgets, thereby stimulating innovation.

The agreement only needs to be ratified by eight member states, including France, Germany and the UK, to be effective.

However, France's signing of the London Agreement means it has now been agreed by 10 states and as more countries come on board, applicants will be able to protect their intellectual property rights in more European states, but without the previously prohibitive costs of doing so. …