EPO LogoJon Gowshall, a UK patent attorney at Forresters, has just let us know that the French ratification of the London Agreement was deposited yesterday, 29th January 2008.

The Agreement will come into force on 1st May 2008, and will apply to all European Patents granted after that day.

What is the London Agreement?

The London Agreement is an international agreement designed to reduce the cost of validating a European patent by reducing the translation requirements at the grant stage, in states which are parties to the Agreement.

At present a European patent application must be prosecuted before the European Patent Office in any one of the three official languages, English, French or German and, on grant, translations of the claims of the other two languages must be filed to be published with the specification as granted. This procedure will remain as before.

In order to validate the European patent in the designated states, it is necessary to file a translation of the entire specification in an official language of the national patent office.

In what countries does this apply?

With the implementation of the London Agreement, this will no longer be necessary in a number of countries. Instead, assuming that the application is in English, only the following translations will be required for the countries indicated which have signed the Agreement:

(a) United Kingdom, France, Germany, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Monaco: No further translations required.

(b) Iceland, Latvia, Netherlands and Slovenia: These countries may require:

(i) a translation of the claims only into their national languages;

(ii) the entire specification to be available in one of English, French or German (most countries have opted for English).

Note: Sweden and Denmark are expected to join the Agreement in the foreseeable future. Other countries may later.

What does this mean for the immediate future?

Since the validation stage represents a large proportion of the total cost of obtaining a European patent, the implementation of the Agreement will result in major savings.

How does the Agreement work?

Under the Agreement, if a party state has an official language in common with the EPO, then any translation requirements for validation (Art 65(1) EPC) are removed, meaning that no translation at all will be needed.

If a state does not have an official language in common with the EPO, that state may designate one of the three official EPO languages as its “preferred” language (known as the “prescribed” language). In these states, the need to translate the description will be removed if the European patent was granted in the prescribed (official EPO) language of that state.

Otherwise, it will be necessary to supply a translation into the prescribed language of that state as part of the validation process. States falling into this category may still request a translation of the claims into one of their official (nonEPO) languages. States that are parties to the Agreement can apply more liberal translation requirements, if they wish.

We expect a number of additional states to ratify the Agreement after it has entered into force.

More: London Calling: What the London Agreement Means to You

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