17 October 2013
Europe's IP community gathered today at EPO headquarters in Munich for a symposium celebrating the 40th anniversary of the signing of the European Patent Convention.
EPO President Benoît Battistelli opened the symposium with a look back at the history of the Convention, calling it "a unique construction with no real equivalent: European, intergovernmental, technical, dedicated to the protection of innovation". He listed the EPO's achievements, including the development of a number of key tools. "EPOQUE, Espacenet, the CPC, Patent Translate: these are all concrete solutions provided by the EPO to support the patent system," he said.
European Council President Herman Van Rompuy praised the EPC, saying: "the European Patent Convention may be little known by the general public today, but it was one of those moments of insight and inspiration that opened a new field of European integration." Looking forward to the unitary patent and the Unified Patent Court (UPC), he added that the "dream of a single patent still isn't fully fulfilled" and urged the EU's member states to ratify the agreement. He said the proposals would mean "less time, less money, less worry - and larger markets" for European companies... We cannot afford to wait a minute longer," he said.
Speaking in a video message, Michel Barnier, EU Commissioner for Internal Market and Services, underlined the importance of IP for the European economy, quoting a recent study published by the EPO with the Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market (OHIM). "Twenty-six percent of jobs created in the European Union and 40% of GDP are generated by IPR-intensive industries," he said.
As the final part of the programme, CNN International's Nina Dos Santos moderated a panel discussion on innovation and Europe with Estonian Justice Minister Hanno Pevkur, UK Under-Secretary for Intellectual Property Lord Younger, SIPO Commissioner Tian Lipu, GE Europe CEO Ferdinando Becalli-Falco and TomTom CEO Harold Goddijn.
Mr Pevkur told the audience that Estonia supported efforts to introduce the unitary patent and the Unified Patent Court in Europe. He said that the challenge was balancing the interests of companies and those of the wider public. "It's an everlasting fight," he said, "a battle of ideas and protecting those ideas."
Lord Younger said that the UK was also "very much on board" with the unitary patent and the UPC, adding that "the whole system is important". He said that quality was key: "Users need certainty."
Asked about his priorities for the future, the Chinese Commissioner said: "We want to see better integration of systems... In 40 years, we saw Europe move from zero to what we see today. In the future the patent system needs to become more user-friendly and facilitate faster, more efficient interactions for users."
Mr Becalli-Falco said he was looking to see how the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) developed over the next few years. "NATO has lost its raison d'être," he said, saying it would shift from a "military to an economic alliance".
Mr Goddijn explained how the current system could be particularly difficult for companies as they expanded. "The trouble starts when you become financially interesting either because you are digging into their markets or purely from a financial perspective. In that period you are the most vulnerable," he said. He described patent trolls as "a real nuisance", saying it was "irritating, unfair, close to extortion."
The symposium also featured films and a presentation on the history of the EPO by historian Professor Pascal Griset from Paris Sorbonne University, the author of a commemorative book that was distributed to all participants.