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Expert Corner

Intellectual Property expert

Community Patent – Spanish perspective – La Patente Comunitaria Europea desde el punto de vista espanol

The creation of a unitary patent at the European Union is a project that has been in progress for decades and whose primary purpose is to create conditions for the functioning of a unified system for the protection of inventions, allowing -among other things- to users (companies, institutions and individuals) to reduce costs and at the same time trying to promote innovation.

 

In Europe, patent protection is primarily based on two systems, namely, the national protection system at the national level that each state has, and on the other hand, the examination and procedure of European Patent System. The latter is mainly governed by the Munich Convention of 1973 and it not only covers all 27 states of the European Union, but also some other states which signed the Treaty, so called members of the European Patent Organisation. As it is known, once a European patent is granted, it should go to the process of national validation in each of the states (about 37).

 

The unitary patent – an idea not so recent

 

Regarding the establishment of a unified patent, conversations date back several decades, but more particularly since the late 90’s, perhaps driven in part by the resounding success of the introduction of the unified community trade mark system, which certainly had many detractors and was hotly contested before and at its beginning.

 

As mentioned above, one of the relevant objectives of a possible Community Patent (European patent community) is to reduce costs and processing requirements of this kind of files, since the current European patent system has the disadvantage that, once the patent is granted, it is necessary to validate the case in each member state in which the patentee is willing to obtain protection of the invention, and then patents become an individual national patent, which final fate and legal effects are almost completely decoupled from both the original European patent as well as other national patents product of the said validation procedure.

 

This means that the holder of a European patent must assume the costs associated with the validation procedure in each state, which are linked to the payment of professional fees for hiring local IP agents, paying official fee, but mainly to the cost related to the translation of the text of granted European patent into the official language of each country.

 

In order to solve the problem of high costs and in view of the difficulties encountered in reaching an agreement on an eventual community patent, other resources have been proposed to reduce validation costs for granted European patents. In this sense, the London Agreement of May 2008 introduced a series of measures and proposals which significantly reduce the procedures and requirements for validation, but in particular an agreement was obtained by which a high number countries completely suppress or reduce translation requirement of the entire text of the European patent granted, only to the claims.

 

The current European patents – Spanish case

 

In the case of Spain, the complete translation of the text remains remains an essential requirement to validate a European patent. However, at an institutional level, the Spanish Patent and Trademark Office has established a series of administrative measures (electronic presentations, authorizations and powers in electronic format, text format reduction, etc..) by which it has not only been proved to be of a remarkable internal efficiency and management, but also, thanks to these measures, the user has benefited from a significant reduction in the final costs for filing and prosecution.

 

At government level, in recent years Spain has been a fervent opponent of both the London Agreement and the eventual unified system for the Community patent, objecting in particular, that the official languages remaining to be English, French and German, and requesting the inclusion of Spanish as one of the official working languages for both, the current European patent system as well as to any other in the future.

 

For this reason, Spain has not accepted nor signed the London Agreement, and (along with Italy in it own), is pressing to include Spanish as a working languages in the current patent prosecution system and in the eventual new European Community patent system.

 

Precisely, in the last few months Spain and Italy have challenged before the European jurisdiction, the trilingual system on which the recent regulation that establishes a system for “Enhanced Cooperation” between the states of the European Union for the creation of a protection of inventions by means of a unitary patent. This regulation has been signed by 25 of the 27 member states comprising the European Union. It is worth noting that Spain and Italy have not always been opposed to a unified patent system, since there is evidence that shows that in the 80’s, Spain was one of the signatories to an agreement that attempted to revive the original 1975 Convention which dealt on the idea creating a Community patent.

 

European Patent – language problems?

 

For some users of the patent system, the failure to extend the working languages of an eventual EU patent office, is a political move aimed at meeting the demands of most powerful countries, ergo, France, Germany and the UK , while for others it is simply in order to avoid from now on, the very high translation costs to which an eventual EU patent office would be forced, as currently happens in many European institutions, which ultimately would result in an increase in the official fees to be paid by users of said system.

  

Currently, Spanish companies that export and protect their patents are used to assuming certain patent translation costs, particularly to English, in order to prosecute and register their patents in other states outside the European Union. Obtaining the recognition of Spanish language as a working language in the eventual Community patent would certainly make things easier for Spanish applicants and would reduce their costs, but it will certainly be more convenient for everyone to obtain a single valid patent throughout the European Union once it is granted and without further process.

 

Community patent – Spanish perspective

 

Based on the experiences of working with patent holders, in the field, once an European patent is granted, and a validation estimate is sent to the clients, they usually need to exclude many countries in this final process, this is mainly due to the high costs of validation. In spite of having obtained a granted patent which has met all requirements and passed all examination, the final territorial scope of protection is then limited because of economic reasons.

 

By working with the owners and users of the current European patent system, it appears that they welcome a unified system for patent protection, whereby the protection of their inventions in Europe would not be limited to a few countries for cost reasons. Likewise, the costs of an eventual centralized attack and a centralized defence of a patent on the grounds of invalidity or other grounds will diminish quantitatively. Also, many users come to indicate that with the current system, European companies are in disadvantage against foreign competitors, since for example, a U.S. patent is valid throughout the U.S. territory and for an entire market of more than 300 million consumers, while in Europe, with similar market conditions, a granted european patent without further national validation is basically not valid in any country.

 

The path for a unified patent at an European level has been reopened by the Regulation for an “Enhanced Cooperation”. With this regulation, and given the objections of Spain, this country (along with Italy) would momentarily have some advantages compared to other countries of the European Union countries, since they could access with a single patent all the 25 member states, while the same exercise would not apply in reverse.

 

Definitively, a unitary patent or a Community patent would result in cost savings for all European patent applicants and similarly it will promote innovation and healthy competition between companies and applicants from other countries in similar economic conditions.

 

 

———————————————————————-

LA PATENTE COMUNITARIA EUROPEA DESDE EL PUNTO DE VISTA ESPAÑOL

 

La creación de una patente unitaria a nivel de la Unión Europea, es un proyecto que se viene impulsando desde hace décadas y cuyo propósito primordial es instaurar condiciones generales para el funcionamiento de un sistema unificado de protección de las invenciones, permitiendo -entre otras cosas- a los usuarios (empresas, instituciones y particulares) reducir costes y a la vez intentar fomentar la innovación.

En Europa, la protección de las patentes se basa primordialmente en dos sistemas, a saber, el sistema de protección a nivel nacional que cada estado posee y por otra parte el sistema de procedimiento y examen de la patente europea. Este último, se rige principalmente por medio de la Convención de Münich de 1973 y en el cual no sólo participan los 27 estados de la Unión Europea, sino también otros estados signatarios del Tratado y miembros de la denominada Organización para la Patente Europea. Como ya es sabido, una vez concedida la patente europea, se debe realizar el trámite de validación nacional en cada uno de los estados (sobre 37).

 

La patente unitaria – una idea no tan reciente

 

En cuanto al establecimiento de una patente unificada, las conversaciones datan de varias décadas atrás, pero más en particular desde finales de la década de los 90, quizás impulsado en parte por el rotundo éxito alcanzado con la instauración del sistema unificado de marcas comunitarias el cual, por cierto, tuvo muchos detractores en su momento y fue muy cuestionado antes y durante sus inicios.

Tal y como se menciona anteriormente, uno de los objetivos relevantes de una eventual patente comunitaria (european community patent) es reducir los costes y requisitos de tramitación de este tipo de expedientes, ya que el actual sistema de patente europea tiene el inconveniente de que, una vez concedido el expediente, es necesario proceder a validar la patente en cada uno de los estados miembros donde se desea proteger la invención, convirtiendo dicha patente en una patente nacional individual en cada, cuya suerte final y efectos jurídicos están casi por completo desvinculados tanto de la patente europea original así como del resto de patentes nacionales producto de dicha validación.

Lo anterior significa que el titular de una patente europea debe asumir los costes vinculados con el procedimiento de validación en cada estado, los cuales se asocian al pago de honorarios de los agentes oficiales de la propiedad industrial locales, a tasas oficiales, pero principalmente al coste relacionado con la traducción del texto de la patente europea concedida al idioma oficial de cada país.

Con la intención de solventar el problema de los altos costes y en vista de las dificultades habidas para alcanzar un acuerdo sobre una eventual patente comunitaria, se han propuesto fórmulas para reducir los costes de validación de patentes europeas concedidas. En este sentido, el Acuerdo de Londres de mayo de 2008 introdujo una serie de medidas y propuestas por medio de las cuales se reducen significativamente los trámites y requisitos de validación, pero en particular se obtiene un acuerdo por medio del cual un buen número alto de países elimina por completo o reduce sólo a las reivindicaciones el requisito de traducir íntegramente el texto concedido de la patente europea.

 

La actual patente europea – caso España

 

En el caso de España, la traducción completa del texto sigue siendo requisito indispensable para validar una patente europea. No obstante, a nivel institucional, la Oficina Española de Patentes y Marcas ha instaurado una serie de medidas administrativas (presentaciones vía electrónica, autorizaciones y poderes en formato electrónico, reducción en formato del texto, etc.) por medio de las cuales ha logrado no sólo una notable eficiencia en su gestión interna, sino que también, gracias a dichas medidas, el usuario se ha beneficiado de una reducción significativa en los costes finales de tramitación.

A nivel gubernamental, en los últimos años España ha sido un fervor opositor tanto del Acuerdo de Londres como del eventual sistema unificado para la patente comunitaria, objetando principalmente que los idiomas oficiales sigan siendo el inglés, francés y alemán, y solicitando que el español sea uno de los idiomas oficiales de trabajo, tanto del actual sistema de patente europea como de cualquier otro sistema en el futuro.

 

Por este motivo, España no ha accedido a la firma del Acuerdo de Londres, y (junto con Italia por su parte), viene presionando para que los actuales idiomas de trabajo de tramitación de patentes europeas y de una eventual patente comunitaria incluyan el español como idioma oficial.

Precisamente, en los últimos meses han sido España e Italia quienes han recurrido ante la jurisdicción europea el sistema trilingüe en el que se basa el reciente reglamento por medio del cual se establece un sistema de “Cooperación Reforzada” entre los estados de la Unión Europea para la creación de una protección de las invenciones por medio de una patente unitaria. Este reglamento ha sido firmado por 25 de los 27 estados miembros que componen la Unión Europea. Cabe mencionar que España e Italia no siempre han sido opositores de un sistema unificado de patentes, ya que por ejemplo consta que en la década de los 80, España fue uno de los signatarios de un acuerdo que intentaba reavivar el Convenio original de 1975 que versaba sobre la idea de crear una patente comunitaria.

 

Patente Europea – ¿problemas de idioma?

 

Para algunos usuarios del sistema de patentes, el hecho de no ampliar los idiomas de trabajo de una eventual oficina comunitaria de patentes, se trata de una jugada política tendiente a satisfacer las demandas de los países más poderosos, ergo, Francia, Alemania y Reino Unido, mientras que para otros se trata simplemente de evitar desde el ahora, los altísimos costes en traducciones a que se vería sometida una eventual oficina comunitaria de patentes, tal y como ocurre en la actualidad en muchas instituciones europeas, lo cual al final redundaría en un aumento de las tasas oficiales que deberían pagar los usuarios del sistema.

 

Actualmente, las empresas españolas que exportan y protegen sus patentes están acostumbradas a que deben asumir un ciertos costes al traducir sus patentes normalmente al idioma inglés para poder tramitarlas en otros estados fuera de la Unión Europea. Lograr que el español sea un idioma de trabajo en una eventual la patente comunitaria ciertamente facilitaría las cosas para los solicitantes españoles y reduciría sus gastos, pero es todavía más conveniente para todos el poder obtener una única patente válida para toda la Unión Europea una vez concedida y sin más trámite.

 

Patente comunitaria – perspectiva española

 

Con base en las experiencias del trabajo con los titulares de patentes, en la práctica una vez concedida la patente europea y enviados los presupuestos de validación, los clientes normalmente se ven en la necesidad de excluir muchos países de dicho trámite final, principalmente debido al alto coste que la validación posterior representa, con lo cual y a pesar de tener una patente concedida que ha cumplido con todos los requisitos y superado todos los exámenes, finalmente su ámbito de protección territorial se ve limitado debido a aspectos de índole económico.

 

Del contacto con los titulares y usuarios del sistema actual europeo de patentes, se desprende que dan la bienvenida a un sistema unificado de protección de las patentes, por medio del cual la protección de sus sus invenciones no se vería limitada en Europa a unos cuantos países por razones de costes. De la misma forma, los costes de una eventual defensa centralizada y ataque centralizado de una patente por razones de nulidad u otros motivos disminuirían cuantitativamente. Incluso, muchos usuarios llegan a indicar que con el sistema actual las empresas europeas están en desventaja frente a sus competidores extranjeros, ya que por ejemplo, una patente en los EEUU es válida en todo el territorio de los EEUU y para todo un mercado de más de 300 millones de consumidores, mientras que en Europa, con condiciones de mercado similares, una patente europea concedida sin su posterior sin validación nacional no tiene validez básicamente en ningún país.

 

El camino para una patente unificada a nivel europeo se ha vuelto a abrir por medio del Reglamento para la “Cooperación Reforzada”. Con dicha regulación y dadas las objeciones del estado español, este país (junto con Italia) estaría momentáneamente aventajado con respecto al resto de los países de la Unión Europea, ya que podría acceder con la misma patente a los restantes 25 estados miembros, mientras que el ejercicio a la inversa no aplicaría.

 

En definitiva una patente unitaria o patente comunitaria significará un ahorro de costes para todos los solicitantes de patentes europeas y de igual forma promoverá la innovación y la sana competencia entre empresas y solicitantes de otros países en condiciones económicas similares.

 

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