COMMISSION STAFF WORKING PAPER - IMPACT ASSESSMENT Accompanying document to the proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and the Council implementing enhanced cooperation in the area of the creation of unitary patent protection and proposal for a Council Regulation implementing enhanced cooperation in the area of the creation of unitary patent protection with regard to the applicable translation arrangements - Hoofdinhoud
COUNCIL OFBrussels, 15 April 2011
THE EUROPEAN UNION
9226/11 ADD 1
Secretary-General of the European Commission, signed by Mr Jordi AYET PUIGARNAU, Director
date of receipt: 15 April 2011
to: Mr Pierre de BOISSIEU, Secretary-General of the Council of the European Union
No Cion doc.: SEC(2011) 482 final
Subject: COMMISSION STAFF WORKING PAPER - IMPACT ASSESSMENT Accompanying document to the proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and the Council implementing enhanced cooperation in the area of the creation of unitary patent protection and proposal for a Council Regulation implementing enhanced cooperation in the area of the creation of unitary patent protection with regard to the applicable translation arrangements
Delegations will find attached Commission document SEC(2011) 482 final.
Brussels, 13.4.2011 SEC(2011) 482 final
COMMISSION STAFF WORKING PAPER
Accompanying document to the
Proposal for a
REGULATION OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND THE COUNCIL
implementing enhanced cooperation in the area of the creation of unitary patent
Proposal for a
Table of Content
1.Introduction .................................................................................................................. 4
2.Procedural issues and consultation of interested parties .............................................. 5
3.Context ......................................................................................................................... 8
3.1. The economic role of patents ....................................................................................... 8
3.2. The existing patent systems in Europe ....................................................................... 10
3.2.1. National patent systems.............................................................................................. 10
3.2.2. The existing European patent system ......................................................................... 10
3.2.3. The Patent Co-operation Treaty (PCT) ...................................................................... 12
4.Problem definition ...................................................................................................... 12
4.1. Problem 1: High costs related to the translation and publication of patents .............. 14
4.2. Problem 2: Differences in the maintenance of patents in the Member States............ 18
4.3. Problem 3: Administrative complexity of registering transfers, licences and other rights ........................................................................................................................... 20
4.4. Consequence: EU-wide patent protection is expensive.............................................. 21
4.5. Overall impacts........................................................................................................... 23
4.5.1. Fragmentation of the Single Market........................................................................... 23
4.5.2. Hindrance to innovation ............................................................................................. 23
4.5.3. Hindrance to growth and competitiveness ................................................................. 24
8.1. Impacts on patent holders........................................................................................... 36
8.2. Impact on the internal market and on stakeholders (other than patentees) ................ 38
8.3. Social and environmental impacts.............................................................................. 39
8.4. Political feasibility...................................................................................................... 40
9.Monitoring and evaluation ......................................................................................... 41
Disclaimer: This report commits only the Commission's services involved in its preparation and does not prejudge the final form of any decision to be taken by the Commission.
Patents are an important enabler for economic growth through innovation. Intangible assets1
are rapidly becoming the economically most important aspect of business in 2009 they accounted for over 80% of the global market value of companies in the S&P 500 (a US list of 500 large publicly traded companies)
2.Investment in research (R&D) accounts for 1.9% of
GDP in the EU3, and an effective patent system is essential to translate that investment into
economic growth. An increased rate of innovation brings benefits to consumers by introducing new products to the market and creating competition.
Today patent protection in Europe is fragmented. While the European Patent Office (EPO) ensures uniformity in granting patents under the European Patent Convention (EPC), the need for a coherent system of patent protection in the internal market has been apparent for decades. Efforts made since the 1970s, however, have not led to success.
The Europe 2020 Strategy4 identified the creation of an economy based on knowledge and
innovation as a priority that is necessary to turn the EU into a smart, sustainable and inclusive economy delivering high levels of employment, productivity and social cohesion. It also proposed a target of 3% of the EU's GDP to be invested in R&D by 2020.
The Innovation Union, adopted in 2010 as a flagship initiative of the Europe 2020 Strategy, built on this and demanded that the "remaining barriers for entrepreneurs to bring 'ideas to market' must be removed. As an immediate step, agreement should be reached on the EU patent before the end of the year"
In December 2010 the Single Market Act6 also highlighted that European businesses,
inventors and creators must be able to develop within the internal market that is as conducive as possible to innovation and creativity, in order to better face international competition.
Both the Europe 2020 Strategy and the Single Market Act are seeking to improve the framework conditions for business to innovate by creating unitary patent protection in the EU Member States complemented by a unified European patent litigation system.
a proposal8 to the Council for authorising enhanced cooperation that was followed by the
request of another 13 Member States to join the cooperation. The European Parliament gave its consent to the launch of enhanced cooperation on 15 February
9 and the Competitiveness
Council adopted the authorising decision on 10 March10. As a consequence, this impact
assessment report (IA) has to take into account the conditions already set by the Council's authorising decision.
A possible future EU patent system has two main elements. The first one is the unitary patent protection that would allow for the grant of a European patent having unitary character, in the best-case scenario, in all Member States of the EU. A key component of the unitary patent protection is the translation arrangements that are given special attention in this impact assessment report. This IA, therefore, will examine the problems arising from the current patent protection system in EU and ways to improve its accessibility and efficiency in order to promote innovation and growth
The second element of the possible future EU patent system is the unified patent litigation system. This IA report, however, does not examine this issue as it follows a parallel work stream and will be addressed in a different legal instrument, following the decision of the Court of Justice of the European Union
2.PROCEDURAL ISSUES AND CONSULTATION OF INTERESTED PARTIES
The Commission presented its proposal for a Council Regulation on the Community patent13
on 1 August 2000. It was based on Article 308 of the EC Treaty that required unanimity for its adoption in the Council, following the consultation of the European Parliament. The proposal covered all elements necessary for the creation of a single EU-wide patent, including the translation arrangements. Whilst the Council adopted a common political approach on the Community patent
14 in March 2003, no further progress took place in the years that followed.
In January 2006, the Commission launched a broad consultation on the future patent policy in Europe
15.More than 2500 replies were received from a variety of stakeholders, including
businesses in all sectors of the economy, business and SME associations, patent practitioners, public authorities and academics. Respondents were asking for a European patent system that provides incentives for innovation, ensures the diffusion of scientific knowledge, facilitates technology transfer, is available to all players in the market and is legally certain. The replies clearly showed stakeholders' disappointment with the lack of progress in the Community patent project. In particular, nearly all respondents (the users of the patent system) rejected the translation arrangements included in the Council's 2003 common political approach which
laid down that the patent holder would have to supply a translation of the claims (having legal effect) into all official Community languages.
Stakeholders expressed an overall support for a "unitary, affordable and competitive"
Community patent. This message was repeated at a public hearing held on 12 July 2006, where a large variety of stakeholders stated their support for the creation of a truly unitary high quality patent. They, however, underlined that political compromises should not undermine the usefulness of the project. In particular, the representatives of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) highlighted the importance of moderate patenting costs.
The Commission adopted the Communication "Enhancing the patent system in Europe" in April 2007
16.The document outlined the way forward as envisaged by the Commission,
including the creation of the Community patent and possible solutions for the translation arrangements. Discussions with stakeholders continued on the basis of this Communication throughout 2008. In October 2008, the Commission and the French Presidency of the Council organised a conference on Industrial Property Rights in Europe
17 and a "European Parliament
of Enterprises" debate was held. An overwhelming majority of represented entrepreneurs emphasised that the continued lack of a single EU-wide patent was damaging to European businesses and called for the creation of the EU patent as soon as possible
The issue of unitary patent protection was also addressed extensively in the consultation on the Small Business Act for Europe that consisted of a range of initiatives targeted to help European SMEs
19.Small and medium-sized businesses identified the high level of patent fees
and the legal complexity of the patent system as major obstacles20. In their submissions to the
consultation, businesses in general and SME representatives in particular requested a significant reduction of the costs of patenting for a future EU patent
Recent position papers from various stakeholders refer to the unitary patent protection. European business associations, such as BusinessEurope,
22 UEAPME23 and Eurochambres24
confirm that businesses, both large and small, request a simplified, cost-effective and accessible EU patent. National business organisations in many Member States and across industry sectors raise identical issues
25.Stakeholders underlined that any solution for the
The Lisbon Treaty introduced a more specific legal base for an EU patent system. According to Article 118(1) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), measures for the creation of European intellectual property rights are to be established by the European Parliament and the Council acting under the ordinary legislative procedure. Article 118(2), however, sets out a specific rule for the language arrangements for European intellectual property rights that are to be established under a special legislative procedure by the Council acting unanimously after consulting the European Parliament. It follows that the translation arrangements for any EU patent system must be established by a separate legal instrument.
In December 2009, the Council adopted conclusions on an "Enhanced patent system for Europe"
26 and a general approach on the proposal for a Regulation on the EU Patent27.
Translation arrangements, however, were not covered due to the abovementioned change in the legal base.
On 30 June 2010 the Commission adopted a proposal for a Council Regulation on the translation arrangements for the EU patent
28.The proposal was accompanied by an IA
report29 analysing various options for the possible translation arrangements. The IA lead to
the conclusion that the preferable option remains the translation arrangements as set out in the revised proposal for Community Patent Regulation of 23 May 2008
30 that provides for a
simplified and cost-effective language regime.
Regardless of the significant efforts made by the Belgian Presidency, it was recorded at the Competitiveness Council meeting of 10 November 2010 that no unanimous agreement could be reached on the translation arrangements
31.On 10 December 2010 the Competitiveness
Council confirmed32 that there were insurmountable difficulties that made the establishment
of unitary patent protection in the entire European Union impossible to attain within a reasonable period by applying the relevant provisions of the Treaties.
On the basis of the request of twelve Member States (Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Slovenia, Sweden and the United Kingdom) the Commission submitted a proposal
33 to the Council for authorising enhanced
cooperation in the area of unitary patent protection. All Member States submitted their request with the condition that the Commission's upcoming legislative proposals will follow the lines elaborated during the recent negotiations in the Council. The requests also highlighted that translation arrangements should rely on the existing EPO framework. Following the adoption of the proposal, Belgium, Austria, Ireland, Portugal, Malta, Bulgaria, Romania, the Czech Republic, Slovakia Hungary, Latvia, Greece and Cyprus also requested to join the cooperation. Altogether 25 Member States have indicated their intention to participate.
Member States should be granted by the EPO. The translation arrangements should be simple, cost-effective and allow for the filing of patent applications in any language of the Union. Any applicant from the EU should have the right to file applications in their own language. However, there should be compensation of the costs related to the translation of applications to an official language of the EPO (English, French and German). Patents should be granted only in one language and, other than the translation of the claims in the two other EPO languages, no further translations should be required. Translations should not have legal effect and serve only information purposes. In the case of a dispute, mandatory translation obligations should apply to the patent proprietor.
The European Parliament gave its consent to the launch of enhanced cooperation on 15 February
34 and the Competitiveness Council adopted the authorising decision on 10 March35.
In January 2011 a Steering Group was formed to assist DG Internal Market and Services in assessing the impact of the different policy options that have been put forward to solve the identified problems. The Steering Group was made up of representatives of the Legal Service, the Secretariat-General, DG Enterprise and Industry, DG Information Society and Media, DG Research and DG Competition. The last meeting of the Steering Group was convened on 3 February 2011.
The impact assessment roadmap was published (2011/MARKT/037 and 2011/MARKT/038). The IA report was examined by the Impact Assessment Quality Board in written procedure;
the Board issued a favourable opinion on 25 February 2011. Following the Board's opinion, a number of additional information/clarifications were included in the IA, notably: The report better explains why renewal fees are not determined by European legislation; it includes new calculation of per capita costs and cost savings when 25 Member States take part in the enhanced cooperation; it explains better why the large market size can result in increased patenting activity and how it improves the competitiveness of European business.
the incentive for inventors and the generation of welfare for society38: On the one hand,
patents guarantee inventors an exclusive right for the industrial application of their invention. This protection comes with a number of limitations, in particular as regards the length (usually 20 years) and the breadth (scope) of the patent protection. On the other hand, the publication of the description of the patented invention should disseminate knowledge and facilitate follow-up inventions.
Patents mostly generate profits if the inventions are economically exploited either by the patent holder or by the licensee, etc. They are, therefore, market-oriented instruments that allow customers and other market participants to determine the economic value of the patent and of the patented invention. In some sectors of the economy, depending on the dominant business model followed by companies, they are effective means to increase R&D.
The patent system has a special importance for SMEs as patents can enhance market entry and firm creation. Studies highlight that start-ups often adopt business models that use patents as core assets
39.While in some cases SMEs may also face barriers to market entry through the
creation of patent thickets by bigger and more resourceful companies, they still profit from patent systems that efficiently grant them access to enforceable intellectual property rights.
In fact, where intellectual property rights are strong and well-enforced, new companies
are more likely to develop new technologies and sell it to other firms without incurring high costs and risk. But a measurement carried out in eight EU Member States shows that currently only 4.8% of the patents are used to create start-ups and consequently new employment
this opportunity is not exploited in Europe. Furthermore, particularly in the aftermath of the financial crisis, the possibility of using IP rights as security facilitates SMEs' access to bank loans
The importance of and the demand for the European patent is illustrated by the fact that EU applications to the European Patent Office increased by an average of over 3% per year for the period 2000-2008
42.The total number of applications reached 146 644 in 2008. In 2009,
however, figures show a relevant decline in all major patent offices, except in the US. It seems clear that in 2009 the negative growth caused by the global economic crisis, led to a decrease in patent filings
43.Finally, there are approximately 130 000 national patent
3.2. The existing patent systems in Europe
The decision whether to file a patent application nationally, regionally or internationally mainly depends on the market targeted by the applicant, the funds that are available for this purpose and their proportion to the expected profits. In the EU, patent protection can be obtained either through the national patent offices of the Member States or through the European Patent Office.
3.2.1. National patent systems
Each Member State has its own patent office which deals with applications for national patents. If an application and the invention to which it relates meet the requirements of national patent law (in particular the patentability requirements
44), a national patent is granted.
The protection conferred by a national patent is limited to the territory of the State concerned. 45% of European inventors and businesses choose to file patent applications at a national patent office first in order to obtain an early priority
45.This proportion is 55% among SMEs46.
Following a novelty search and a preliminary examination carried out by the national office, the applicant decides whether to pursue or abandon the national patent application, apply for a European patent at the EPO, and/or file a patent application under the international Patent Co- operation Treaty (PCT). The application is published 18 months after it is filed. If the national patent application is pursued, the national office decides on the grant of the patent or the refusal of the application depending on the results of its examination. Patents are then registered in the national patent register.
3.2.2. The existing European patent system
If the applicant chooses to apply for a so-called "European patent", the application will be dealt with by the EPO under the procedures laid down in the European Patent Convention
47.The EPC was adopted in 1973 and entered into force in 1977. It does not form part
of the EU legal order, but all EU Member States are Contracting States to the EPC48.
The EPC established centralised procedures for the search, examination and grant of European patents. On the basis of a single patent application processed in one of the three official languages of the EPO (English, French or German), inventors and businesses can obtain a European patent for one or more Contracting States to the EPC.
proceedings). The application (which comprises of the claims, description49 and drawings) is
thus made available to the public, in electronic format on the European publication server50.
Once the patent is granted, it is published by the EPO in the language of proceedings, together with a translation of the claims in the two other official languages
51.The authentic text of the
European patent is the text in the language of proceedings both before the EPO and in any Contracting State to the EPC
A European patent has the same legal effect as a national patent in the Contracting States to the EPC in which the patent proprietor desires protection for their invention. However, the European patent does not take effect automatically in most Contracting States
53.It must first
be validated in the States in which the patentee wishes protection, i.e. the European patent has to be converted into a national patent
54.Figure 1 below illustrates the application and renewal
procedures for patent applications directly filed with the EPO.
Source: Harhoff, Hoisl, Reichl, van Pottelsberghe, 2009, "Patent validation at the country level: the role of fees and translation costs", Research Policy, November 2009.
3.2.3. The Patent Co-operation Treaty (PCT)
The PCT is an international treaty that entered into force in 197855. Filing an application
under the PCT is another method of protecting patents in several countries56. While an
application under the PCT is not an actual patent application, it extends the potential protection given by the priority right
57 to a period of 30 months. The PCT application is
searched by one of the International Search Authorities (i.e. patent offices designated by the World Intellectual Property Organisation - WIPO
58). Once the search and the optional
preliminary examination are completed, the procedure continues before the national offices or the EPO that decide on granting the patent or refusing the application. Approximately half of the European patent applications are also PCT applications.
4.1. Problem 1: High costs related to the translation and publication of patents
After the grant of European patents, different validation requirements apply in the Member States. For example:
the patent holder must file with the national patent office a translation of the European
patent into the official language of the State where protection is desired;
the patent holder must pay a publication fee to the national patent office; and
the patent holder must comply with various formal requirements relating in particular to
the number of copies to be filed, use of prescribed forms, and time periods.
Where the patent holder fails to observe any of the above validation requirements in a particular State, the European patent is deemed to be void ab initio in that State.
Direct and indirect translation costs can add up to about 40% of the overall costs of patenting in Europe. It has been estimated that a European patent validated in 13 countries is more than ten times more expensive than a patent in the US or Japan
59.National laws of most Member
States require that the patent proprietor supplies translations of the patent into the official languages of the Member States in which protection is sought. The translations must be filed with the national patent offices, which shall make them available to the public. Significant costs, red-tape and complexity accrue in this process:
Costs of translations: Specialised translators are needed to translate the technical text
contained in patents. On average, EUR 85 is charged per page60. The number of pages to
be translated depends on the specific patent: a patent of typical length contains 15 pages of description, 4 pages of claims and 1 page of drawings
Fees charged by patent agents: Local patent agents often act as intermediaries between the
patent proprietor and the national patent offices where the translations are to be filed62.
They may offer to arrange for translations or verify translations carried out by external translators, or they may offer to ensure that formal requirements laid down by national law are complied with
Official fees charged by national patent offices for the publication of the translations: The
figure below shows the publication fee (also known as "printing fee" in countries where the publication still consists in printing the patent on paper) for a European patent of typical length (20 pages)
Figure 3 Publication fee in the Member States for a typical European patent (in EUR)
Source: National Law relating to the EPC, 14th Edition, 2009.
In order to reduce the costs induced by the validation requirements, the Agreement on the application of Article 65 EPC (London Agreement) was adopted in October 2000
London Agreement is an optional scheme, allowing for collective action to reduce patenting costs by dispensing with some or all translation requirements. It entered into force on 1 May 2008. Today sixteen Member States are not parties to the London Agreement and thus require a translation of the entire patent into their official language (Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia and Spain)
67, mainly for political reasons. Table 1 summarises the
Table 1 Summary of the translation requirements in the Member States (2011)
Requirement Member State
No translation requirement for the description or claims
Germany, France, Luxembourg, UK
Translation of claims to official language of the MS but no translation requirement for the description
Latvia, Lithuania, Slovenia
Translation of claims to the official language and the description to English
Denmark, Netherlands, Sweden, Hungary
Translation of the claims and the description to the official language(s) of the MS Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Spain, Ireland, Italy, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia
The chart below illustrates the total validation costs (including direct translation costs and estimated related costs such as patent agent fees and publication fees) for a European patent of typical length (granted by the EPO in German), in respectively three, 13 and 27 EU Member
if the patent proprietor wishes protection in only three Member States Germany, France
and UK (which are parties to the London Agreement) that overall validation costs equal the translation costs of the claims to French and English
68, i.e. EUR 680;
validation costs are approximately EUR 12 500 when protection is sought in thirteen
Member States (the ones in which most validations take place), and
finally, validation costs are over EUR 32 000 if a patent is validated in the whole EU.
Figure 4 Example of total validation costs (in EUR) of a European patent of typical length in a selection of EU Member States
It is important to note that only around 1 000 patents out of approx. 50 000 annually validated patents (2%) are validated in all 27 Member States. Around 4 000 patents (8%) are validated in 13 Member States and 20 000 patents per year are validated in the largest 5 EU markets (40%). Approximately half of these patents are only validated in 3 Member States an estimated 25 000 patents per year (50%). According to these figures, the estimated validation costs are around EUR 193 million per year.
Table 2 The annual validation costs in the EU (in EUR)
Scope Patents per year Cost per patent Total costs Cost per capita
(in EUR) (in EUR) (EUR/million)
27 Member States 1000 32 112 32 million 64.1
13 Member States 4000 12 507 50 million 33.3
5 MS (DE, UK, FR, IT, ES) 20000 4718 94 million 15
3 MS (DE, UK, FR) 25000 680 17 million 3.2
Total 193 million
Source: European Commission
The charts below show that the per capita cost of obtaining patent protection in the EU shows a much steeper increase than the increase in the actual size of the market covered by patent protection.
Figure 5 Illustration of increase in market size and cost par patent per capita
Population (million)Cost per capita
i l l i o
U R/ m
copies that can be consulted in the public reading rooms of the national patent offices, or copied at the expense of interested third parties. The number of translations consulted in Member States where translations are only available in printed form is extremely low less than 2% according to estimates
Finally, the publication of the translations takes place very late in the "life cycle" of the patent only months after grant and after the publication of the patent specifications by the EPO and hence often not before five years after the date of filing of the patent application. Yet innovative businesses must keep abreast of the latest technological developments in their field by monitoring new patent applications filed by their competitors which are published already 18 months after the date of filing (in the language of proceedings before the EPO) not by reading the translations supplied several years later. In practice, third parties make little use of the translations filed at the national patent offices after the patent has been granted.
4.2. Problem 2: Differences in the maintenance of patents in the Member States71
Articles 86 and 141 of the EPC lay down that renewal fees for the European patent application has to be paid to the EPO as of the third year from the date of filing the application. The fee has to be paid each subsequent year, until the European patent is published in the European Patent Bulletin. The national law of the countries where the patent is then validated may only impose renewal fees for the period after the publication.
After grant, renewal fees have to be paid by the patent proprietor each year in each country where the patent is validated. If the patent holder does not pay the fees, the patent lapses and becomes part of the public domain. Renewal fees usually increase as time progresses and thus patentees only maintain patents if they generate (or are expected to generate) higher income than the costs of maintaining it. 50% of EPO patents lapse in the first 10 years after filing and about 8% are renewed until statutory term (20 years)
The level of renewal fees shows great diversity in the Member States. For example, the cumulated renewal fees until the 10
th year of protection are between EUR 476 (Slovenia) and
HUF 871 000 (approx. EUR 3 161) in Hungary. The cumulated renewal fees until the 20th
6 months before the due date (e.g. Malta, Portugal, Sweden). There are countries where the earliest possible date of payment is four (Ireland), three (e.g. Spain, UK), or two months (e.g. Lithuania, Hungary) before the due date.
Figure 6 Earliest date of paying the renewal fees before the due date (2009)74
Earliest date of paying the renewal fees before the due date (in a t e
Source: National law relating to the EPC, 14th edition, 2009.
In all Member States there is a period of grace for the payment of the renewal fees during which the patent holders can still pay the renewal fees (with a surcharge) and thus not lose their rights on the patent. This grace period is 6 months in all Member States, however, the surcharge due during this period shows once again great variety. In a few countries the surcharge is a fixed amount (EUR 50 in Germany, EUR 100 in Italy, EUR 14 in Luxembourg) while in most states it is a percentage of the renewal fee (between 10% and 100%).
patent offices in the official language of the Member State can make it difficult or impossible for foreign patentees to manage their patent without local representation. If companies providing technical assistance charge EUR 30-40 per patent per country for carrying out the payment of renewal fees
76, renewing a European patent in five countries could cost EUR 150-
200 each year in addition to the renewal fees. Where patent holders are required to appoint patent attorneys, the fees are likely to be much higher. Using the same assumption on the number of patents as in Table 2, the accumulated costs for a European patent that is renewed for 10 years is shown in Table 3 below (calculated from the third year).
Table 3 Accumulated cost of technical assistance and renewal fees
Costs of technical Patents per year Total cost of technical assistance for 10 years (in EUR) Total cost of
assistance for payment (10 years in EUR) renewal fees for 10 years (in EUR)
3 MS (DE, UK, FR) 720-960 25000 18 million 24 million 73 million
5MS (DE,UK, FR, IT, ES) 1200-1600 20000 24 million 32 million 91 million
13 MS 3120-4160 4000 12,5 million 16.6 million 56.8 million
27 MS 6480-8640 1000 6.5 million 8.6 million 30.3 million
Total 61 million 81.2 million 251.1 million
Source: European Commission
4.3. Problem 3: Administrative complexity of registering transfers, licences and other rights
Patents can facilitate transactions in the markets for technology: they can be bought and sold as property titles or, more frequently, be subject to licensing agreements. Up till the grant of European patents, transfers, licences and other rights are registered centrally in the European Patent Register by the EPO. After grant, however, a transfer is registered in the European Patent Register only during the opposition period or during opposition proceedings
associated communications with the owner can push this up to EUR 200. For rights held in other Member States than that of the owner, where an owner would have to cover the cost of an attorney able to act in the local language and may have associated translation costs, a transfer can cost EUR 500 per Member State. So, registering the transfer of a patent valid in five Member States can cost EUR 2000-2500. In addition, there are different procedural fees in the different Member States. For example, the registration of a transfer costs EUR 7 per patent in Luxembourg and EUR 136 in Greece. Some Member States (e.g. UK) do not apply procedural fees in these cases.
Moreover, there are different requirements in the Member States as regards the types of documents to be submitted to the patent register. Some require the submission of the original document or a certified copy (e.g. Austria, Finland), some others accept simple copies e.g. Czech Republic, Bulgaria, France) or forms to be filled (e.g. UK). In some countries a special written request needs to be submitted (e.g. Slovakia, Poland, Latvia) and/or a proof of the fee payments (e.g. Belgium, Bulgaria). The diversity of administrative requirements does not only make the management of patents in several Member States very difficult for patent proprietors but the lack of Europe-wide transparency also makes it costly for third parties to keep track of the status of the patent and the rights attached. Due to lack of data on the number of patent transfers, licensing agreements, etc. the EU aggregated cost cannot be provided.
4.4. Consequence: EU-wide patent protection is expensive
As a consequence of the problems explained above, access to comprehensive patent protection in Europe is so costly and complex that it is inaccessible to many inventors and companies. There is some evidence that the costs associated with patent protection are so high that SMEs often prefer informal protection of their innovations (i.e. secrecy). For bigger firms, this size effect disappears. With the existing patent system in Europe, a critical size appears to be necessary to become an active user of patents
80.The cost of often several patent
attorneys to manage patents in the European system, as well as the fees for patent applications, validations and renewals are particularly strong motives for SMEs for not patenting innovations. In a recent study
81 55.6% of micro enterprises, 32% of small and 26%
of medium-sized enterprises mentioned the fact that they needed to pay patent attorney fees in several member States. As regards the applicable fees, respectively 39%, 60% and 47.4% of enterprises raised similar concerns.
case-by-case basis. Possible explanations include a general rise in number of applications and granted patents (e.g. about 78 000 applications were received at the EPO in 1995 compared to more than 146 000 in 2008) resulting in larger company patent portfolios and therefore fewer validations in order not to increase the overall costs of their patent portfolio.
Figure 7 below shows the approximate number of European patents that were validated in the Member States according to the latest available data. Most validations were made in Germany, France and the UK, followed by Ireland, Austria and Italy.
Figure 7 European patents validated in the Member States84
Number of validations in the Member States
Source: European Commission
The decision of a patent proprietor to validate a European patent in a particular country depends on several factors: high costs (arising from direct translation costs, publication fees, annual renewal fees) have a strong negative impact
businesses. For example, renewing a patent for 10 years in the five most validated Member States is estimated to cost up to EUR 7 500. This amount could exceed EUR 43 000 in 20 years
Finally, the fragmentation of patent protection also renders the enforcement of patent rights more difficult. When goods enter the EU through a Member State where a patent is not in force, the patent holder may not rely on the EU Customs Code
to withhold the goods
suspected to be in breach of a patent88. The goods have to be released by the customs
authorities and thus allowed to circulate freely within the internal market, possibly also including the Member States where the patent is in force. The identification of the goods in breach of a patent is thus very difficult.
4.5. Overall impacts
The situation described above has major undesirable effects on the functioning of the internal market. In addition to maintaining the fragmentation of the market, it also has a negative impact on innovation, growth and the competitiveness of European business.
4.5.1. Fragmentation of the Single Market
The lack of access to comprehensive patent protection in Europe means that patent protection stops at the national borders. In order to reduce legal complexity and costs, European patents are validated in only a few Member States. Therefore, business opportunities are lost as patent proprietors tend to focus on some national markets in their patent protection and the production, licensing and marketing of their products. Business opportunities in other markets whether smaller or more distant are less likely to be pursued; this fails to fulfil a true internal market and this may also undermine the cohesion within the Union.
4.5.2. Hindrance to innovation
Among other factors in commercial decisions, the characteristics of a market in terms of patent protection can lead to more or less investments in R&D and technology transfers. European inventors cannot enjoy the full benefits of the Single Market when they need to seek patent protection country-by-country. This situation compares negatively with other major economies such as the United States, Japan or China. Seeking patent protection in economies with large consumer markets and unitary protection systems, such as the United States may prove to be more attractive for inventors. This situation has negative impact on the competitiveness of the Union as innovation-related activities generate human capital that tends to be more mobile than in other areas. The current less advantageous framework conditions for innovation makes the Union a less attractive place to create and innovate, for both European and non-European inventors.
4.5.3. Hindrance to growth and competitiveness
Innovative companies are at a disadvantage as third parties producing and selling patented products in Member States where patent protection has not been secured, have a competitive advantage over patent proprietors who need to recoup R&D investments; the problem affects especially innovative SMEs who have refrained from securing patent protection throughout the Union due to the high costs associated with obtaining such protection.
Obtaining a patent in 13 Member States today costs 10 times as much as obtaining a patent in the US (EUR 18 536 as opposed to EUR 1850)
89.As it was presented in section 3.1, forming
start-ups on the basis of patents is uncommon in Europe. This reduced the potential for job creation and thus growth.
Patents may create more value when they can be licensed out or sold for a bigger market and they can disseminate knowledge by transferring technology more effectively. The current fragmentation makes it more difficult to trade and can even deter the incentives to trade at all, due to a complexity of the assessment of individual national rights.
Finally, the value of patents is weakened as patent proprietors cannot rely on the EU Customs Border Regulation (Regulation No. 1383/2003) to prevent infringing goods and products from third countries from entering the internal market through Member States in which there is no patent protection.
To conclude, the high costs of obtaining EU-wide patent protection have the following
effects: the costs deter SMEs from patenting inventions, patents are validated only in a few EU countries and the knowledge dissemination remains limited. Consequently, the Single Market continues to be fragmented in terms of patent protection and access to certain products and services; finally both innovation and growth of European companies are hindered.
The above objectives can only be reached by lowering the overall costs of patent protection in Europe, in particular by reducing the translation and publication costs, simplifying the maintenance of patents (renewal) and simplifying the registration of transfers, licensing agreements and other rights. These are the operational objectives of this exercise.
Figure 8 - Objectives
7.POLICY OPTIONS AND ANALYSIS
This chapter examines different policy options that could be chosen in order to solve the problems presented in chapter 4 without prejudice to their legal feasibility. However, as explained in the Introduction and chapter 2, 25 Member States requested the Commission to propose enhanced cooperation in the area of unitary patent protection and indicated the scope and objectives of such cooperation. These preconditions need to be taken into account when considering the options.
The IA report does not present and analyse options with respect to the level of annual renewal fees for the patents as those fees should not be determined by European legislation. The annual renewal fees should cover the costs generated at the EPO in the course of the grant and management of the relevant patents and thus the EPO has to be involved in the decision- making process so that the solution fits in its existing procedures and fee scheme. Moreover, the level of the renewal fee depends on a number of factors (costs, number of participating countries, etc.) and should be progressive throughout the life of the patent. Should the fee level be determined by law, the change of these conditions would entail the need to amend European legislation that may prove to be time-consuming and burdensome. As a consequence, while the options analyse those cost components where the savings can be foreseen, meaningful aggregate figures including all costs elements cannot be presented.
7.1. Option 1 (Base-line scenario) the Commission takes no action
Description: Under this scenario, the current patent system in Europe would remain intact. The only improvement that could be envisaged would be that more EU Member States accede to the London Agreement. Accession is, however, not only optional but also a lengthy and complex process as parliamentary approval procedures must take place in each country. Accession by all remaining 16 Member States is unlikely to happen, even in the long run as there are several Member States that have not yet expressed any intention to join. It is to note that the majority of the Member States which are not parties to the London Agreement have an official language that is not in common with any official language of the EPO. Therefore, even after accession, they may require a translation of the claims into their national language.
Analysis: Under this option, the shortcomings of the current European patent system would not be addressed and the costs and the complexity of the current system would stay unchanged. It would also have a negative impact on the functioning of the internal market due to continuous fragmentation resulting from patent proprietors' validation practices. Therefore, this solution is not effective.
In terms of cost reduction and simplification, even if all Member States acceded to the London Agreement, the eventual language arrangement for the European patent would remain complex and costly. In addition, the London Agreement fails to address the other shortcomings of the current European patent system, in particular the validation requirements in the Member States would remain. Also, it would have no impact on the cost and complexity of the renewal of patents (problem 2) and the registration of rights (problem 3). Therefore, this option would provide no additional benefit to users of the patent system and the costs would remain as they were described in the problem definition (chapter 4).
7.2. Option 2 the Commission continues to work with the other institutions towards an EU patent covering 27 Member States
Description: Under this option, the Commission together with the Council and the European Parliament would continue to work towards an EU patent which covers all Member States.
In practice, this solution requires the continuation of the discussions in the Council on the basis of the Commission's proposal for a Regulation on the Community patent of 2000
the proposal for a Council regulation on the translation arrangements applicable to EU patent
Under this option, the EU patent would be granted by the EPO on the basis of the EPC. The EU patent would be of autonomous nature and provide uniform protection throughout the EU. The procedure up to the grant of the patent would be the same as the procedure for granting European patents under the EPC. An EU patent would be granted in English, French or German by the EPO. At the time when the EU patent is granted, the patent proprietor would supply to the EPO a translation of the claims into the two other official languages of the EPO. After the grant of the EU patent, its legal effects would extend to all Member States. There would be no additional validation requirements. Moreover, the renewal fees would be paid at the EPO and the patent would be registered in a single European register of EU patents.
Analysis: Under this option, the objective of a simpler and more cost-effective European patent system would be fully achieved. An EU patent covering all Member States would be the most effective solution.
Doing away with all translations after grant and associated validation requirements would result in very significant cost reductions and simplification for all users of the patent system. The translation costs under this option would amount to approximately EUR 680 per patent
This corresponds to the current average cost of the translation of the claims into the two official languages of the EPO other than the language of proceedings and would equal the cost of validation in Germany, France and the UK under the London Agreement.
Under this option, the translation costs amounting to EUR 680 would therefore replace all other translation and validation costs (excluding attorney fees). Namely, instead of more than EUR 32 000 in validation costs for the coverage of the whole EU or EUR 4700 for the five largest Member States, the costs for the EU patent would be reduced to EUR 680, i.e. 2% of the current validation cost for the EU-27. This option would also ensure that the EU 27 patent is competitive even to the most limited European patents. The per capita cost would be very
low: EUR 1.36/million habitants. Since studies have shown that the price elasticity is -0.4; i.e.
As explained in section 4.1, the annual validation costs in the EU are estimated to reach EUR 193 million per year
94.If the validation cost for the EU patent is presumed at the minimum
EUR 680, one may assume that: (i) those patents that are currently validated in more than 3 Member States with much higher costs would all become EU patents which cover the territory of the EU; (ii) from the 25 000 patents per year that currently are validated in only 3 Member States (for identical costs, i.e. EUR 680), the majority would also become EU patents (except for specific marketing decisions or different coverage desired, for example, covering only Germany and Switzerland). Consequently, the total costs for the users would be equal whether all European patents would become EU patents or part of them would remain European patents limited to three Member States.
Table 5 Estimated costs of the EU 27 patent
Scope Patents per year Cost per patent (in EUR) Total costs (in EUR)
EU 27 patent 100% 50000 680 34 million
EU 27 patent 75% 37 500 680 25.5 million
European patent 25% 12 500 680 8.5 million
Total 34 million
Source: European Commission
The cost savings for the users of the patent system (patentees) would thus be EUR 159 million per annum.
In order to ensure sufficient flexibility, annual renewal fees for an EU 27 patent would not be determined by EU legislation but would be subject to further negotiations in the implementation phase. Thus the potential costs savings in the renewal fees compared to the present system cannot be calculated in this respect. The same applies to the cost savings deriving from the single centralised procedure with respect to professional representation for the registration of transfers or licensing agreements. As there is no information available on the number or scope of the registration of rights in the national patent registers, there is no possibility to calculate the overall costs and savings.
carried out country-by-country, under this option, a single central procedure at the EPO would replace all.
As regards the political feasibility of this option, the translation arrangements (which require unanimity in the Council - Article 118(2) TFEU) pose the biggest obstacle. The Council had tried and failed on several occasions to reach a unanimous agreement. As explained in chapter 2, the Competitiveness Council confirmed on 10 November 2010 that no unanimous agreement could be reached on the translation arrangements and on 10 December 2010 that insurmountable difficulties existed, making a decision requiring unanimity impossible now and in the foreseeable future. Therefore, despite all the benefits of this option, it is not achievable politically and thus the problems of the EU patent system could not be addressed through this option.
Table 6 Expected impact of option 2
Policy Option Effectiveness Cost reduction Simplification Political feasibility
Option 2 +++ +++ +++ Not possible
"0": no change "+": positive impact "-": negative impact
7.3. Option 3 - the Commission presents proposals for regulation implementing enhanced cooperation
Description: Under this option, the Commission would present the proposals necessary for the implementation of enhanced cooperation in the area of unitary patent protection. The area of unitary patent protection would include the territories of the Member States that wish too cooperate in this framework. So far the Commission has received requests from 25 Member States wishing to participate in enhanced cooperation and adopted a proposal for a Council decision authorising enhanced cooperation in the area of unitary patent protection in December 2010, in response to these requests (see details in chapter 2).
In this framework, the unitary patent protection would be optional to the users of the patent system and would co-exist with current system. The unitary patent protection would provide European patents granted by the EPO with unitary effect for the territories of the Member States participating in the enhanced cooperation.
The options as regards the applicable translation arrangements are described under sub- options 3.1 and 3.2
95.Both sub-options have the following common elements:
A)Any translation to be filed at the time of grant shall be filed centrally at the EPO, which shall be in charge of the electronic publication of the patent. Article 14 of the EPC applies with respect to the languages of filing.
B)The development of automatic machine translation (AMT) programs for patent documents is essential in order to improve the dissemination of technological information for researchers throughout the EU. A project in this field is underway at the EPO. The availability of a fully- fledged AMT system promises significant improvements for users monitoring the content of new patent applications in foreign languages.
C)In the case of a dispute relating to a European patent with unitary effect, the patentee will provide, at his/her expense and at the request of an alleged infringer, a full translation of the patent into an official language of the participating Member State in which the alleged infringement took place or in which the alleged infringer is domiciled.
D)An application for a European patent may be filed in any language96. Where the language
of filing is not an official EPO language, a translation of the application must be provided, within a prescribed time period, so that the application can be processed by the EPO. If a natural or legal person having his/her residence or principal place of business within a participating Member State that does not have as an official language among the language of proceedings before the EPO files an application for a patent in the official language of their Member State, the cost of translation shall be borne by the system, should he/she chose to obtain unitary effect to their European patent.
Analysis: This option would allow for the creation of unitary patent protection limited to the territories of the Member States that participate in enhanced cooperation. Enhanced cooperation remains open to all Member States which may join any time, provided that they meet the conditions of the established cooperation. The Member States that expressed a wish to participate in enhanced cooperation make up 79% of the total EU population. In terms of patenting activity in the EU, applicants from the participating Member States have filed approximately 92% of applications from the EU with the EPO in 2009. All Member States with the highest per capita number of applications would take part in the enhanced cooperation
the population of the three most validated Member States (UK, DE, FR 208.5 million people). But even when comparing the figures to the population in the five largest Member States (DE, FR, UK, IT, ES 314.8 million people), the population of 25 Member States participating in enhanced cooperation is 80 million higher.
The effect of relative patenting costs on the demand for patent protection was investigated in a recent study performed for the Commission
98.When comparing patent costs, taking into
account the market size and the number of claims in an average patent for a given territory, the study showed that very high costs in Europe induce a much smaller demand for patent applications filed at the EPO. The study also shows that the London Agreement has a substantial impact on reducing costs, but a European patent remains several times more expensive than a US patent.
By providing for unitary patent protection covering a sizeable area of the Union, the cost per claim per capita for patent protection would decrease. Studies have shown the price elasticity to be -0.4; a cost reduction of 10% would lead to an increase in patent filing of about 4%. By reducing the cost of patent protection per capita, an enlarged territory for patent protection should therefore lead to greater demand for patenting
Option 3 would create an area where the costs and the complexity of patent protection would be significantly reduced. The level of such cost reduction and simplification would largely depend on the number of Member States that participate in enhanced cooperation. It is important to highlight, that all patent holders would equally enjoy the benefits of this option, no matter whether they are residents in countries inside or outside the enhanced cooperation.
The costs of translation in the area of enhanced cooperation would be constant and they would not change with respect to the number of Member States that participate. The larger area is covered by enhanced cooperation, the more significant the cost savings are. Two scenarios are analysed under sub-options 3.1 and 3.2 to demonstrate the potential cost savings.
The payment and management of the renewal of the patents, as well as the registration of the patents and the related rights and licences would be managed centrally by the EPO with respect to the territory of the participating Member States. In addition to the single central procedure at the EPO, all registrations and the payment of renewal fees would need to be carried out country-by-country with respect to those Member States that do not participate in the enhanced cooperation.
As regards the costs deriving from attorney fees paid by patent holders when they register transfers or licensing agreements, there would be clear costs savings deriving from the single centralised procedure with respect to the territories of the Member States participating in enhanced cooperation. But just as in option 2, as there is no information available either on the number or scope of the registration of rights in the national patent registers, there is no possibility to calculate the overall costs and savings.
Although this option would not bring the full benefits of option 2, it would still have a positive impact on users of the patent system in Europe.
7.3.1. Sub-option 3.1 - the Commission proposes translation arrangements applicable in
the area of unitary patent protection that correspond to its proposal of 30 June 2010
Description: Under this sub-option, the Commission would propose translation arrangements applicable in the area of unitary patent protection that are identical to its proposal for the translation regime for the EU patent
100.The patentee of the European patent granted by the
EPO will supply to the EPO a translation of the claims into the two other official languages of the EPO. No additional translations would be required for the unitary patent protection that would take effect automatically in the territories of the Member States participating in enhanced cooperation.
The only exception to these limited translation requirements would be the case of a dispute concerning the patent (see in section 7.3). It is estimated that less than 1% of all patents become subject to litigation during their term
Analysis: The IA carried out by the Commission on the translation arrangements for the EU patent is to a large extent applicable under sub-option 3.1. The main difference is that a unitary patent under enhanced cooperation would not cover all 27 Member States. This sub- option implies very limited translation costs and no additional validation costs. The average cost of patents for the area of enhanced cooperation would be EUR 680.
In this option, the potential savings would depend on the number of Member States participating in enhanced cooperation. The table below shows comparison under this sub- option, for 16, 22 and 25 Member States.
Table 7 Comparison of patenting costs under sub-option 3.1
European patent 27 MS European patent 5 MS (DE, FR, UK, IT, ES) Enhanced cooperation
16 MS + 11 other MS Enhanced cooperation 22 MS + 5 other MS Enhanced cooperation 25 MS + 2 other MS
Translation 23 375 3 910 12 665 8 755 3 910
Publication 2987 308 1485 588 308
Representation 5750 500 2750 1250 500
Total 32 112 4 718 16 900 10 593 4 718
Source: European Commission
Therefore, under this sub-option, obtaining patent protection for the entire territory of the EU, if only the 16 Member States joined the enhanced cooperation, would cost 53% of the current cost. Presuming that 22 Member States take part in the enhanced cooperation, patent protection would cost only 33% of what it costs today and only 15% of today's cost if 25 Member States participate. Taking into account the current validation pattern for the 27 Member States (see Table 3), the annual savings at EU level could reach EUR 38.5 million in the case of 16 Member States, EUR 45 million in the case of 22 Member States and EUR 58.5 million in the case of 25 participating countries
Table 8 Per capita cost of patent protection under sub-option 3.1 (EUR/million habitants)
16 participating MS 22 participating MS 25 participating MS
Territories of participating MS 2.1 1.79 1.72
Territories of 27 MS 33.7 21.1 9.4
This sub-option would be cost-effective and result in relevant simplification for the users of the patent system. However, while the Commission's proposal was welcomed by a large majority of the Member States, it did not find unanimous support. Several Member States have indicated the need for additional elements. The Member States requesting the launch of enhanced cooperation have requested to include in the implementing regulations of the enhanced cooperation some of the elements proposed by the Belgian Presidency in relation to the translation arrangements, moreover the proposal of the Commission on the draft Council decision authorising the enhanced cooperation contains already a number of substantive elements in this regard (see sub-option 3.2). The conditions set by the requests of the Member States that they addressed to the Commission to launch enhanced cooperation exclude the possibility of choosing this sub-option.
7.3.2. Sub-option 3.2 the Commission proposes translation arrangements applicable in
the area of unitary patent protection based on its proposal of 30 June 2010 and incorporating elements of a compromise proposal discussed by the Council
Description: Under this sub-option, the translation arrangements under sub-option 3.1 would be complemented by certain elements of a compromise proposed by the Belgian Presidency and discussed by the Council in October-November 2010. These arrangements gained support from 25 Member States in the Council and were reflected in their request to the Commission to provide for a proposal to launch enhanced cooperation. The main set of linguistic requirements would be the language regime applicable under the EPC to all European patents.
In addition, supplementary translation requirements without legal value would be applicable to the unitary patent protection for a transitional period:
(i) a full translation of a European patent that was granted in French or German and for which unitary protection is sought to English (language customary in the field of international research); and
(ii) a full translation of a European patent that was granted in English and for which unitary protection is sought to an official language of the Member States participating in enhanced cooperation, at the choice of the patent holder.
However, the transitional period would be set to a limited period of time which would be based on the time which is likely to be necessary to develop high-quality machine translations. It is foreseen that the machine translation project of the EPO would be further developed to include all languages of the Contracting States to the EPC. The EPO launched a specialised machine translation programme for patent documents in 2004, currently ensuring the availability of customised translations of patent specifications in a limited number of languages. In October 2010, the EPO extended its machine translation programme with a view to making available machine translations for the languages of all the Contracting States to the EPC, which include all official EU languages, from and to English, by 2014. The EPO's Administrative Council agreed to dedicate EUR 10 million to the programme over this period of 4 years. Once high-quality machine translations would be available, and subject to evaluation, additional manual translations would not be necessary anymore. The maximum period for these arrangements is 12 years but the status of the machine translation project will be assessed periodically and the Commission will propose to end the transitional arrangements before, if the conditions are fulfilled.
available in English with the claims in French and German, the patent holder could choose to translate only the patent description in French or German. The additional costs would thus be EUR 1360 for translating the description only. (ii) If the patent holder chooses to fully translate the patent in any official language of the Member States participating in enhanced cooperation which is not French or German, in addition to the cost of translating the claims into French and German, the additional costs would be the maximum of a full translation which is estimated at EUR 1700. However, in practice, this cost would often be much lower as 45% of all patent applications at the EPO are first filed in a national patent office. In these cases the initial patent applications are already available in national languages. Therefore, once a patent is granted by the EPO, this initial application may be transformed into a full translation of a patent upon its grant. The costs, therefore, would be much lower, around EUR 300 per patent (i.e. the cost of necessary adaptation, if any).
Therefore, the total costs of translation during a transitional period may vary from approximately EUR 980 to EUR 2380 per patent in the area of enhanced cooperation. After the expiry of this transitional period, when high-quality machine translations become available, the total costs of translation would be again reduced to EUR 680 as under sub- option 3.1. During the transitional period, the costs under sub-option 3.2 would therefore be higher than under sub-option 3.1.
Table 9 Comparison of patenting costs under sub-option 3.2103
European patent 27 MS European patent 5 MS (DE, FR, UK, IT, ES) Enhanced cooperation 16 MS + 11 other MS Enhanced cooperation
22 MS + 5 other MS Enhanced cooperation
25 MS + 2 other MS
Translation 23 375 3 910 14 365 10 455 5 610
Publication 2 987 308 1485 588 308
Representation 5 750 500 2750 1 250 500
Total 32 112 4 718 18 600 12 293 6 418
Source: European Commission
Under this sub-option, obtaining patent protection for the entire territory of the EU, if only 16 Member States joined the enhanced cooperation, would cost 58% of the price patentees have to pay today. Presuming that 22 Member States take part in the enhanced cooperation, obtaining patent protection would cost 38% of what it costs today and only 20% of today's cost if 25 Member States participate. Taking into account the current validation pattern for the 27 Member States (see Table 3), the annual savings at EU level could reach EUR 30 million in the case of 16 Member States and EUR 36 million in the case of 22 Member States taking part in enhanced cooperation. In the case of 25 participating countries, this amount would reach EUR 50 million
Table 10 Per capita cost of patent protection under sub-option 3.2 (EUR/million habitants)
16 participating MS 22 participating MS 25 participating MS
Territories of participating MS 7.3 6.3 6
Territories of 27 MS 37.1 24.5 12.8
This sub-option would thus be less cost-effective than sub-option 3.1 during the transitional period but in the long run it could bring about the same savings. The same applies for simplification. However, as more Member States are likely to join the enhanced cooperation than under sub-option 3.1, the actual savings can be higher in the end.
As regards the political feasibility, the principles of the transitional period were proposed by the Belgian Presidency and welcomed by a large majority of Member States. Consequently this sub-option can be expected to gain more political support.
Table 11 Expected impact of sub-option 3.2
Policy Option Effectiveness Cost reduction Simplification Political feasibility
Option 3.2 ++ + (transitional + (transitional High
++ (long term) ++ (long term)
"0": no change "+": positive impact "-": negative impact
8.COMPARING THE OPTIONS AND THEIR IMPACTS
8.1. Impacts on patent holders
The table below provides a summary of expected impacts of the options on the main users of the patent system.
diminish the need for any additional procedure in the EU. Sub-options 3.1 and 3.2 are equally effective means to achieve the objectives of the initiative. Option 1 is not effective; it hampers the competitiveness of the EU.
As regards cost reduction, once again option 2 would bring about the most important savings as EU patent protection would potentially be available for only EUR 680 (excluding attorney fees). However, sections 7.3.1 and 7.3.2 show that enhanced cooperation could also result in significant savings. The amount of these savings would depend on the number of Member States taking part in the enhanced cooperation. The following chart compares the per capita cost of the patent protection under several scenarios. The first four columns indicate the cost of obtaining patent protection in 3, 5, 13 and 27 Member States under the baseline scenario (see Table 2 for exact figures). The fifth column shows that the lowest per capita cost of patent protection would be ensured by option 1, i.e. the EU patent. The last four columns show the cost of patent protection under enhanced cooperation between 25 Member States. The sixth and seventh columns represent the per capita cost of patent protection in 25 countries while the last columns indicate the per capital cost of patent protection in 25+2 Member States (see Tables 8 and 10 for exact figures). As explained in section 7.3.1, due to the significant increase in the size of the market, and the major reduction in the costs of patenting compared to the baseline scenario (option 1), it can be expected that patentees will seek Europe-wide patent protection also under option 3. Figure 9 also shows that, even during the transitional period (sub-option 3.2) the cost of Europe-wide patent protection will be much closer to the EU-patent scenario than to the baseline scenario. Finally, it is important to underline that even if unitary patent protection during the transitional period will be somewhat more costly than patent protection today in 3 Member States (UK, DE and FR), there are a number of advantages that can be expected to lead to a major shift towards the new instrument. In particular, the fact that size of the market covered by the protection will be doubled (see details in section 7.3), combined with a reduction in administrative burden and an increase in the transparency and accessibility of patent information can make the new instrument very attractive to business.
Figure 9 Comparing the per capita cost of the options
Source: European Commission
As regards simplification, an EU 27 patent could ensure that a single centralised procedure applies to the registration of patents, the payment of renewal fees and the registration of transfers and other rights. Enhanced cooperation is the second best option. The level of simplification compared to the baseline scenario depends on the number of the Member States joining the enhanced cooperation.
While option 2 would create a level-playing field across the EU also in a legal sense, in the case of enhanced cooperation too, the users of the patent system would equally benefit from unitary patent protection, no matter whether they reside in a country that does not take part in the enhanced cooperation. Inventors could seek unitary patent protection under the same conditions regardless of their country of residence. Therefore, all inventors will benefit from the cost reduction and the simplification brought about by the enhanced cooperation. This measure can be expected to have a major positive impact on the patenting activity of SMEs and an overall increase in the number of patents throughout Europe.
It is to note that inventors from third countries would benefit for unitary patent protection the same way as European patentees. Approximately half of the European patent applications come from outside the EU (see Annex II). These applicants would also benefit from the simplification and cost reduction under options 2 and 3.
8.2. Impact on the internal market and on stakeholders (other than patentees)
Option 2, the creation of an EU patent would have the most positive impact on the internal market, on the users of patent information and on consumers, as it would integrate the entirety of the internal market in terms of patent protection. But enhanced cooperation in the area of the unitary patent protection (option 3) would also increase the level of integration not only between the participating Member States but also between participating and non-participating countries, compared to the baseline scenario. Due to the costs and complexity inherent in the current system, European patents are validated in only a few Member States today (see chapter 4). By implementing enhanced cooperation, the overall costs and complexity of obtaining patent protection throughout the EU will be significantly reduced. Thus, more inventors can be expected to seek patent protection by means of a European patent also in the Member States that do not participate in the enhanced cooperation. This is even more likely as such EU-wide coverage would facilitate the protection of inventions against products from third countries that infringe their patents when entering the internal market. Therefore, an increase in patenting activity can be expected also in those Member States that do not take part in the enhanced cooperation.
access to the published patents. Therefore, the dissemination of knowledge would improve that should have a positive impact on innovation in Europe
105.Users of patent information
from third countries would equally benefit from the centralisation of patent information.
Unitary patent protection will have a positive impact on the competitiveness of the Union and will make it a more attractive place to create and innovate, for both European and non- European inventors. Europe will compare better with other major economies such as the United States, Japan or China. Seeking patent protection in economies with large consumer markets and unitary protection systems is more attractive for inventors. While the geographical distance from these markets will keep them hard to access for European SMEs, the creation of unitary patent protection in Europe will provide these companies with an opportunity to develop and market their inventions on a sizeable market and thereby increase the international competitiveness of European economy.
8.3. Social and environmental impacts
As explained in section 3.1, patents can be used to create start-ups, although this is currently not common in Europe. Easier and cheaper access to patents is likely to result in an increased number of innovative SMEs. SMEs have a major role in job creation; they ensure two thirds of private sector jobs in Europe
106.The increase in the number of new business, therefore, can
be expected to have a positive impact on job creation both in participating and non- participating Member States.
Nonetheless, these positive impacts on European economy come at a price. The reduced translation requirements will have an unfavourable impact on translators working on European patents in those participating countries where the official language(s) is not common with the EPO's official languages. However, it is important to note that this change has already taken place in the countries that joined the London Agreement and to a limited extent in those the translation of claims is still required
107.Another important element of the
cost savings for inventors derives from the reduced costs of professional representation. These fees charged by patent attorneys should be lower than today due to the single centralised procedure replacing country-by-country representation.
Table 13 Summary of the impacts on stakeholders
Policy Impact on
Patentees Patentees Patent Consumers Employment Translators,
(large (SMEs)* information patent attorneys
Option 2 +++ +++ +++ +++ ++ ---
Option 3.1 ++ ++ ++ ++ + --
Option 3.2 ++ + (transitional ++ ++ + - (transitional
++ (long term) --
"0": no change "+": positive impact "-": negative impact
*Impacts are the same for patentees residing in participating and non-participating Member States.
8.4. Political feasibility
As regards political feasibility, while it is clear that in economic terms an EU 27 patent would the most effective, it would bring about the highest benefits in terms of the cost reduction and simplification, this option is not feasible. This option has been a preferred solution for more than 10 years and has not become a reality. The latest failure of the Council to agree on the translation arrangements applicable to EU patens showed that reaching a unanimous agreement remains politically unfeasible. At present, option 1 (base-line scenario) also has low political feasibility as it would also run contrary to the political engagement of the Commission and the Council to address the problems of the patent system in Europe.
The options have no impact on the EU budget.
9.MONITORING AND EVALUATION
Five years after the start of application, the Commission will review the application of the legislation, with particular attention to the transitional translation arrangements. The legislation on the translation arrangements should provide for a regular review of the necessity of the transitional measures.
The creation of unitary patent protection aims to improve the conditions for innovation in Europe. Innovation activity is measured by INNO-Metrics, comprising the European Innovation Scoreboard and Eurobarometer. The relevant indexes need to be monitored on an annual basis.
A European patent with unitary effect would coexist with national patents. The relative patenting levels between these types of rights should be monitored to ensure that they provide adequate solutions for innovators. This can be achieved by analysing patenting statistics published by patent offices in Europe in their annual reports.
The proportion of patents used to create start-ups in eight Member States
Number of patent applications to the EPO in 2009
Residence of Number of Residence of Number of
applicants applications applicants applications
Austria 1504 Monaco 10
Belgium 1630 FYROM
Bulgaria 17 Malta 62
Switzerland 5864 Netherlands 6738
Cyprus 46 Norway 489
Czech Republic 136 Poland 173
Germany 25107 Portugal 107
Denmark 1488 Romania 13
Estonia 34 Sweden 3147
Spain 1258 Slovenia 119
Finland 1447 Slovakia 25
France 8929 San Marino 9
UK 4821 Turkey 191
Greece 103 Australia 845
Croatia 21 Canada 2044
Hungary 114 China 1631
Ireland 490 Israel 1095
Iceland 47 Japan 19933
Italy 3881 Korea 4193
Lichtenstein 222 Taiwan 1006
Domestic and foreign application filed to the European Patent Office (EPO), Japanese Patent Office (JPO), Korean Intellectual Property Office (KIPO) and US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in 2008/2009
Patents granted by the EPO, JPO, KIPO and USPTO in 2008/2009
The London Agreement
In October 2000 an Intergovernmental Conference of the EPC Contracting States adopted the Agreement on the application of Article 65 EPC (London Agreement) in order to reduce the costs induced by the validation requirements
108.The London Agreement is an optional
scheme, allowing for collective action to reduce patenting costs by dispensing with some or all translation requirements. It entered into force on 1 May 2008
109.Currently the following
Member States take part in the agreement: Germany, Denmark, France, Hungary, Luxembourg, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Sweden, Slovenia and the UK.
Contracting States with an official language in common with one of the EPO official languages who are party to the London Agreement are required to dispense entirely with translation requirements (Article 1(1)). Within the EU, this applies to France, Germany, Luxembourg and the United Kingdom.
Contracting States not having an official language in common with one the EPO official languages may require a translation of the claims into their official language and nominate one of the official languages of the EPO into which the description should be translated if this is not the language of proceedings at the EPO (Article 1(2) and (3)). Within the EU, Denmark, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Slovenia and Sweden require translation of the claims into their official language. Of these countries, Denmark, the Netherlands, Sweden and Hungary have nominated English for translations of the description, therefore requiring this translation if the patent has been granted in French or German.
Today sixteen Member States are not parties to the London Agreement and thus require a translation of the entire patent into their official language(s) (Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia and Spain)
Cumulated renewal fees in the Member States in EUR*
Member State TOTAL 6 TOTAL 10 TOTAL 20
years years years
Austria 520 1830 12380
Belgium 235 775 4340
Bulgaria 230 971 6493
Cyprus 247,75 760,33 4262,96
Czech Republic 247 699 5862
Germany 360 1420 13170
Denmark 329 1611 6684
Estonia 352 1023 5312
Finland 645 1765 8005
France 180 782 5572
Greece 140 655 5915
Hungary 839 3161 8328
Ireland 398 1138 4628
Italy 150 870 6620
Lithuania 431 1124 4404
Luxembourg 172 557 2537
Latvia 507 1470 5215
Malta 209,64 605,62 2410,89
Netherlands 300 1540 11040
Poland 360 893 3793
Portugal 100 825 5475
Romania 690 1690 5920
International comparison of patenting costs
The proportion of European patent applications compared to the population of the Member States
State Population (million)
Czech R. 13