Brussels, 2nd February, 2004
Industrial property: Commission proposes establishing Community Patent Court
The European Commission has presented proposals for two Council Decisions establishing a Community Patent jurisdiction, under the aegis of the European Court of Justice, to allow the resolution of disputes within the future Community Patent system, in particular those on infringements and on the validity of Community Patents. Under the proposals, the jurisdiction of the Court of Justice would be exercised by a new Community Patent Court. The new system would mean that judgements over Community Patent rights would be effective throughout the EU, avoiding the expense, inconvenience and confusion that can occur when judgements in several different national courts are required.
Internal Market Commissioner Frits Bolkestein said: "To maximise the benefits of the Community Patent, we need a single Community Patent Court, under the ultimate jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice, so that disputes are judged with EU-wide effect. I am confident the Council will adopt the necessary decisions quickly, as broad agreement in principle was already reached at the March Competitiveness Council. But of course, setting up the jurisdictional arrangements without finalising adoption of the Community Patent Regulation itself is about as useful as a new pair of skis in the desert. So above all I hope the Council will agree on the final points of detail on the Community Patent still at issue and adopt the Regulation. Europe's companies have been crying out for too long for access to pan-European patent protection at reasonable cost with minimum red-tape and maximum legal certainty."
The first proposal presented by the Commission would confer on the Court of Justice formal jurisdiction concerning certain disputes over Community Patents, in particular those concerning alleged infringements of patents and challenges to the validity of patents. The second proposal would establish the Community Patent Court, whose seven judges would be appointed by the Council of Ministers, to exercise the Court of Justice's jurisdiction on its behalf. It also sets up a specialised chamber within the Court of First Instance to hear appeals against the Community Patent Court's judgements. In exceptional cases, a decision of the Court of First Instance could be subject to review by the Court of Justice.
Disputes on national patents or on European Patents granted by the European Patent Office with effect for individual Member States are decided by the courts of the respective Member States. This means that bringing an action for infringement of a patent or contesting the validity of a patent may require bringing actions in a number of Member States, with all the difficulties and expense that entails. It is also possible that courts in different Member States may interpret patent law differently and reach incompatible verdicts.
To provide a less wasteful and costly system, the Community Patent Court would operate according to a single set of procedural rules, with a uniform case law and with costs affordable for users and in particular for SMEs. Thus, the jurisdiction regime proposed would ensure that disputes over Community Patent rights were judged with EU-wide effect by a single centralised and specialised court. That would provide legal certainty for the protection of inventions throughout the Union.
The legal basis for the establishment of the Community Patent jurisdiction was introduced into the EC Treaty by the Treaty of Nice (Article 229a of the EC Treaty for the conferral of jurisdiction on the Court and Article 225a of the EC Treaty for the establishment of the Community Patent Court).
The creation of the Community Patent system itself aims to make it cheaper and easier to protect new inventions in all EU Member States, with a single procedure. It will thus remove a competitive handicap suffered by Europe's innovators and stimulate investment in research and development. The Commission tabled its proposal for a Regulation setting up the Community Patent in July 2000 (see IP/00/714 and MEMO/00/41). In March 2003, the Council finally reached a broad political agreement on the main thrust of the proposal (see MEMO/03/47). After detailed work by a Council working group, the Competitiveness Council, very close to an agreement on the outstanding issues at its meeting November 2003 meeting (see MEMO/03/245) nevertheless failed to agree on the length of the period under which translations of claims can be filed. The Irish Presidency now intends to bring the matter back before the Council as soon as possible so that the entire Regulation can be finalised.