Cut-Price Ideas

New rules will make it cheaper to secure pan-European patent protection.

Innovation is about to get cheaper. From May, companies seeking patent protection in Europe will no longer need to translate their application into the official language of every country in which they apply for protection. The European Patent Office reckons the changes could cut the cost of an application by 40%, or €10,000 on average.

The changes are a result of the London Agreement, a law encompassing 14 EU member states. Though tabled in 2000, French ratification in January allows the changes to come into effect this year. Dave Croston of law firm Withers & Rogers reckons the remainder of the 34 countries that are part of the European Patent Convention will come under pressure to join the London Agreement once it comes into force.

Since the 1970s, companies seeking patent protection in Europe have been able to file a single application in English, French or German — the official languages of the patent-protection process — at the European Patent Office. However, once protection is granted, each member country has demanded that the application is translated into its own official language.

“In the past, companies with a limited budget may have decided only to pursue protection in a core group of countries — France, Germany and the UK,” says Croston. Now companies can buy patent protection across London Agreement countries for the same cost. As a result of being protected over a wider range of countries, Croston reckons that companies will see the book value of their patents increase.

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