On 5 October 1973 in Munich, 16 countries signed the European Patent Convention (EPC), establishing the legal framework for a transnational patent system in Europe. The Convention was inspired by the vision of a group of committed Europeans who thought that closer bonds between European states for the benefit of innovation would help to shape a peaceful and prosperous Europe. The 40th anniversary celebrations bore testimony to this history, and also to the major role that patents play in supporting innovation today.
"Looking back at the past 40 years, we can say that the EPC provided a sound basis for the success of the European patent system, not only from a technical point of view but also in its European and political dimension," said EPO President Benoît Battistelli, opening a symposium dedicated to "Innovation and Europe".
In his keynote speech at the symposium, Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council, praised the EPC, saying: "The EPC may be little known to 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 system, he added that the "dream of a single patent is still not entirely fulfilled" and urged EU member states to ratify the Agreement establishing the Unified Patent Court.
The past and future of the EPC were celebrated at the other events held for the anniversary. By renaming the area in front of EPO headquarters Bob-van-Benthem-Platz, in honour of the EPO's first president Johannes Bob van Benthem, the city of Munich paid tribute to the organisation it hosts. The new square was jointly inaugurated by the current president, Benoît Battistelli, and Christian Ude, Lord Mayor of Munich. After the inauguration ceremony, the European Inventor Hall of Fame exhibition at the Deutsches Museum was opened, honouring seven outstanding inventors who have been recent finalists in the European Inventor Award.
For the occasion, the EPO also commissioned a book on the history of the EPC by historian Professor Pascal Griset of Paris-Sorbonne University. Entitled The European patent - a European success story for innovation, the book is a detailed account of the European patent system's origins and evolution.