Chairman of the Civil Chamber, representative of Supreme Court of Estonia
Honoured judges, representatives of the European Patent Office, ladies and gentlemen!
Please allow me to extend the warmest welcome from the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Estonia to all the participants of the symposium. Unfortunately, due to other work obligations, the Chief Justice was unable to join us here today.
We are delighted that the 17th European Patent Judges' Symposium is taking place in Tallinn, Estonia. The symposium has brought together a large number of renowned European patent law specialists, and I dare say that never before have there been so many judges specialising in patents at the same time here in Tallinn.
Estonia is a small country. Our population is about 1.3 million. We have no gold or silver, oil or gas. This is also the reason why we have always held knowledge and wisdom in great esteem. In "Kalevipoeg" ("Kalev's Son"), the Estonian epic which has shaped our national consciousness, the following remarkable words have been noted as a signpost: "greater than treasures of silver, more precious than mountains of gold, we must regard wisdom".
The more limited the material resources, the more economic success and competitiveness depends on innovation.
The discussion initiated by Lennart Meri, the first president of Estonia after it regained its independence, on searching for the proverbial Estonian Nokia, already embodies the idea of knowledge-based Estonia and innovation. Today, a complex innovation policy has been developed for Estonia, manifested in numerous strategy papers, action plans, programmes and projects, and it is an integral part of the innovation policy of the European Union.
I am glad to say that in the short period after regaining its independence Estonia has been able to achieve significant economic success. Based on the ranking compiled by the Innovation Union for 2013, Estonia ranks 14th in the European Union in the area of innovation. However, in terms of the economic impact of innovation, we rank 21st. We have no reason to be satisfied. The results of Q2 of the current financial year are also unsettling. Economic growth is close to non-existent. This, however, is not a problem specific to Estonia. Poor economic growth is also an issue for many other European Union member states and the European Union as a whole. Still, the competitiveness of the European Union starts at home – with the integration of the economies of the member states. This is why contacts between the member states need to be tightened in all levels and fields, to ensure that the European Union remains unified and competitive in the world market. It is common knowledge that cooperation facilitates innovation.
Ladies and gentlemen!
An invention becomes innovation when it obtains market value and creates economic profit. The issue is actually very simple: how to gain more economic benefits from the invention. Another aspect worth pointing out here is how well the legal protection system has been organised and established for new inventions.
An instrument of the policy of innovation is law, but law by itself does not create innovation. It is the state's duty to create a legal environment which is supportive and conducive for innovation, so that the inventions are ensured solid legal protection which is also affordable for small and medium-sized enterprises. Until now the cost of obtaining patents has been one of the main factors hindering the competitiveness of companies.
The development of intellectual property law in Estonia is closely tied to the developments in the field in the European Union. Prior to accession, the intellectual property regime of Estonia was brought into compliance with the requirements of the European Union. The regulations governing the protection of intellectual property are constantly being updated in Estonian legislation on the basis of the directives of the European Parliament and Council.
It is worth noting that this symposium of European patent judges is being held at the same time as European patent system reform, involving the unitary patent in the EU and the Unitary Patent Court, is taking place. The simplified European patent system will definitely help to promote innovation and make it more accessible for entrepreneurs seeking to obtain patent protection, while also making it possible to increase investments directed towards research and development activities.
It is great that the case study of the symposium already involves the application of an agreement of the Unitary Patent Court, still to be ratified by Estonia and many other European Union member states. I would like to note here that, along with Sweden, Latvia and Lithuania, Estonia has used the option of creating a regional branch of the court, with Sweden as its main seat, which will be able to resolve disputes in all states of the region.
The protection of intellectual property rights is international in its nature. Also, the issues of overcoming the weaknesses of the legal protection of intellectual property need to be addressed at the international level. This is why it is very important that patent judges from different countries are able to come together. It gives them the opportunity to exchange experiences on patent protection, to hear about the practices in place in different countries, to reconcile and harmonise the opinions on different issues of patent protection between the judges, and to serve as an inspiration for each other.
In the end, efficient and quality patent protection depends on the experience and expertise of the judges who are resolving the patent disputes. This unique international symposium of patent judges will definitely also be an educational one, providing knowledge to the participants and thereby making them better patent judges.
Dear symposium participants!
In conclusion, please let me express my firm belief that both Estonia as well as the European Union as a whole is arriving in the era of innovation.
The future of innovation is also evident in the children's theme park opened this year near the town of Pärnu, in Estonia – the Lotte Village of Gadgetville. I would like to take this opportunity to give them a bit of publicity and encourage all of you to visit the park, if you have the chance. On display are countless fun inventions that Lotte, an inquisitive puppy, has created together with her companions. Such a theme park is sure to encourage the next generation to think creatively, invent and become innovators of the future. However, Gadgetville is an equally inspiring place for grown-ups too.
I wish you all a creative, successful and fruitful experience at the symposium!