Thursday, August 26, 2010

Creation of common EU patent system faces setback - Translation Implications

Since May 1, 2008,  the London Agreement, meant to reduce costs relating to the translation of European patents, has been in effect. The London Agreement provides for patent claims to be available in the national language of the states where the European patent is registered, while the description — which represents the bulk of the text of a patent — can be made available in English, French, or German, the official languages of the EPO (European Patent Office).

The argument for the London Agreement was that the cost of translations reduced the incentives for companies to apply for a European patent and, many argued, the situation was a burden on the competitiveness of the European economy, compared to the situation in the United States.

However, according to news from NetworkWorld, the European Court of Justice might put a break on the stated plans of the current EU presidency to  foster a common patent system across the European Union. The court's Advocate General believes that a centralized patent is "incompatible with the treaties" that created the EU, according to a leaked document.

If the European Court of Justice moves forward with this decision, translation companies specializing in Patent Translations will see a return of business in high volumes. Companies like UK publicly-traded RWS and Denmark's Lingtech are set to benefit from this return.  I might even develop a service in this area for Milengo if this ruling materializes.

It always struck me as strange the fact that the EU was promoting a common European Patent, when respect for linguistic diversity is a core EU value. In fact, Article 21 of the ‘Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union’ forbids discrimination on several grounds (specifically including language), while Article 22 guarantees respect for cultural, religious and linguistic diversity.

Let's wait and see how this pans out.

1 comment:

  1. I could be mistaking but I think that English, French, and German, are actually the working, not the official languages of EPO, and altough the typical EU multilingualism could be impractical, the ECJ's Advocate General belief is correct. Attention on public spending must not be an exlusive domain of the Tea Party, and other ultra-conservative movements. Translation of patent should be a burden for UE member countries, and, as such, should be well motivated. The DGT is not that efficient body some people depict (I wrote about this some months ago), while EPO seems to be.