European Commission consults on patent policy

Out-Law News | 17 Jan 2006 | 5:14 pm | 1 min. read

The European Commission has launched a public consultation on how future action in patent policy to create an EU-wide system of protection can best take account of stakeholders' needs. Computer-implemented inventions are not mentioned.

The European patent system dominated IT headlines last year, when a proposed Directive on the patentability of computer-implemented inventions provoked fear that Europe would open the floodgates to software patents. Fierce debate ended in July when the European Parliament voted overwhelmingly to reject the proposal. The Commission said at the time that it would not submit a new proposal.

However, a number of MEPs began talking of the Community Patent as the appropriate legislative instrument to address the issue of software patentability. This instrument is addressed in yesterday's consultation.

The Community Patent would be a single patent, legally valid throughout the EU. At present, patents are awarded either on a national basis or through the European Patent Office (EPO) in Munich, which grants so-called European Patents. These are essentially a bundle of national patents. The Community Patent is a much more streamlined proposal; but arguments over the legal effect of translations have hindered its development.

Yesterday's consultation paper states that launching a Community Patent remains a priority. But the Commission wants to know if a Community Patent should have additional features – which could rekindle the software patent furore. It is open to suggestions.

The consultation also asks how the current patent system can be improved and seeks suggestions for areas that can be harmonised.

All suggestions for improving the patent system in Europe should be submitted by 31st March 2006. The Commission expects to organise a hearing based on the feedback on 13th June 2006.