HC Deb 02 February 1999 vol 324 c583W
Dr. Kumar

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what steps he is taking to ensure that the procedure for registering and protecting intellectual property rights for patents is harmonised across the European Union. [68551]

Dr. Howells

There is already substantial harmonisation of procedures for acquiring patent rights in Europe. Under the European Patent Convention (EPC), an intergovernmental agreement to which 19 European States belong (including the United Kingdom), applications can be filed with the European Patent Office. This offers a single procedure for obtaining patent rights. Applicants designate those States in which protection is required, and rights become valid in those States upon filing of a translation into their official languages.

Once validated in each designated State the system provides a bundle of national patents which have to be separately maintained and enforced under respective national laws.

Following consultation on its Green Paper on patents in Europe, the European Commission is expected to make a proposal for a Council Regulations for a Community patent providing a unitary right across the Member States. Costs of translation into official languages of all Member States and absence of harmonisation in post grant litigation could reduce the effectiveness of such a system. As stated in the Competitiveness White Paper, the Government will push for a Community patent which is affordable and easy to enforce.