After the last-minute amendments of the Unitary Patent Regulation (UPR) by the European Council on 28/29 June, who suggested
that Articles 6 to 8 of the Regulation [...] to be adopted by the Council and the European Parliament be deleted
lead to a removal of this matter from the EU Parliament’s agenda and unleashed a wave of revulsion among members of the EU Parliament in general and those of its legal committee (JURI) in particular (see here and here), the direction in which today’s JURI meeting would go was not utterly hard to predict.
And in fact, today’s press release confirmed what could have been expected anyway:
The European Council’s move to change the draft law to create an EU patent would “infringe EU law” and make the rules “not effective at all“, Bernhard Rapkay (S&D, DE), who is responsible for the draft legislation, told the Legal Affairs Committee on Tuesday. Most MEPs strongly criticised the European Council’s move and agreed to resume the discussion in September.
Apparently, this opinion is backed by the Parliament’s legal service, assuming that deleting Articles 6 to 8 UPR would “affect the essence of the regulation” thus be incompatible with EU law.
Yesterday evening, MARQUES, an association of worldwide brand owners that is an accredited organisation before the OHIM (cf. OAMI Users’ Group) and observer at the OHIM Administrative Board, has made a noteworthy move as it offered its interpretation of the conclusions to be drawn from the final judgement of the CJEU in case C-307/10 IP TRANSLATOR (see earlier report) in an open letter sent to the national IP offices of all EU member states, the Benelux IP office, and the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market itself. The letter is undersigned by Nunzia Varricchio, Chair of MARQUES Council, and my partner Jochen Höhfeld, Chair of MARQUES Trade Mark Law and Practice Team.
As already summarised here, the trademark application ‘IP TRANSLATOR‘ was launched as a test case by the Institute of British Patent Attorneys (CIPA) to obtain a review of OHIM‘s practise as to the meaning of class headings by the CJEU. The national UK trademark ‘IP TRANSLATOR’ was claimed for ‘Education; providing of training; entertainment; sporting and cultural activities’, i.e. the class heading of Class 41 of the Nice Classification. The UK IPO refused the application on the basis of Article 3(1)(b) and (c) of Directive 2008/95 and OHIM Communication No 4/03, according to which the trademark covers all services falling within Class 41, so that the trademark was considered lacking distinctive character and being descriptive in nature for “translation services”, which also falls within Class 41. The subsequent appeal to the referring court raised that the application did not specify, and therefore did not cover, translation services. The issued decision appears quite clear on this problem, as it clarifies
- that the goods and services must be identified with sufficient clarity and precision to enable third parties, on that basis alone, to determine the extent of protection;
- that the general indications of the class headings may be used provided they are sufficiently clear and precise; and
- that, if (all general indications of) a class heading is used, this will not be considered to cover the entire class if this is not considered sufficiently clear and precise (no. 62). In this case, the applicant would have to specify the goods and services further.
Thus, the CJEU clearly voted for the means-what-it says approach.
As reported here and elsewhere [1, 2, 3], the European Council agreed on the EU Unitary Patent and a EU Unified Patent Court at last week’s Brussels EU summit after volatile negotiations – by ‘suggesting’ two significant amendments (see summit conclusion, page 2, item 3) as compared to what was know from the latest available draft text of the Unitary Patent Regulation dated 23 June 2011 (see here and here).
EU Court of Justice: The more severe one of those amendments that apparently was pushed through by UK Prime Minister David Cameron to please his eurosceptics allies at home, demands
that Articles 6 to 8 of the [Unitary Patent] Regulation [...] to be adopted by the Council and the European Parliament be deleted
essentially meaning that substantive EU patent law will not any more be subject to legal order of the Union highest court, the European Court of Justice (CJEU). I share my colleague’s view that this is nothing less than “an open declaration of deep mistrust, if not political warfare of significant parts of the UK conservatives against the CJEU and thus the European Union as a whole.
This move, however, could not escape the eyes of the European Parliament, which originally wanted to nod through this matter tomorrow (4 July 2012) whereas meanwhile the item was removed from the agenda under the harsh critics of rapporteurs Bernard Rapkay (S&D, DE) and Klaus-Heiner Lehne (EPP, DE): “scandalous breach of procedure“, “oriental bazaar” (did they read this item?), ”case would go straight to the European Court of Justice“. Due to the Council’s amendments, the first reading is thus rendered null and void.
It appears that the proudness of the Danish Presidency as well as the official cries of joy of e.g. EPO President Benoît Battistelli (“historic breakthrough“) and EU Commissioner Michel Barnier (“decisive step“) came far too early while stakeholders ask themselves if this mess could not have been prevented by a more transparent process, more cooperation with the potential system users, less political tactics, and less national egoisms and horse trading. It is depressive to say, but if the implementation of a reasonable EU patent system was the litmus test for Europe’s capacity for efficient policy-making, the conclusion can only be that the striking deficiencies of the EU’s political management appear to be insurmountable.
As we had reported earlier, the European Council summit last week held in Brussels reached a compromise on long-debated plans to create an enhanced co-operation amongst EU Member States minus Italy and Spain aiming at creating a Unitary Patent plus a corresponding Unitfied Patent Court (UPC).
According to the Lisbon Treaty, the European Parliament is actively involved in the making of a Regulation of the Council and the European Parliament implementing enhanced cooperation in the area of the creation of unitary patent protection (last known published text in Document 11328/11 dated June 23, 2011).
Furthermore, the European Parliament is invited to adopt or reject an agreement on a Unified Patent Court without being actively involved in drafting it (last known published text in Document 13751/11 dated September 02, 2011)
In November 2011, JURI Legal Affairs Committee of the European Parliament mandated three Rapporteurs – Bernhard Rapkay (S&D, Germany), Raffaele Baldassarre (EPP, Italy), Klaus-Heiner Lehne (EPP, Germany) – (see agenda, nos. 33, 34, 35) to negotiate the agreement on the Unitary Patent and the related Language Regime with the European Council in back rooms behind closed doors. (see e.g. press release as well as press reports  and ).
These back room activities apparently were successful, at least in a technical sense. An informal consensus was reached between representatives of the EU Commission, the EU Council, and EU Parliament, however which – as far as I know – has not been published yet.
In February 2012, the JURI Legal Affairs Committee of the European Parliament finalised their report on these matters but the plenary vote was postponed because of the question of where the central division of the Court shall be seated was still left unanswered in those days.
The general expectation was that the package consisting of the Regulation of the Council and the European Parliament implementing enhanced cooperation in the area of the creation of unitary patent protection, the Regulation implementing enhanced cooperation in the area of unitary patent protection with regard to the applicable translation arrangement and the agreement on a Unified Patent Court shall not be unbundled thereafter. Only the precise indication of the seat of the central division was envisaged to be inserted into the text of the agreement on a Unified Patent Court.
But the Heads of Government and/or State assembled at the European Council summit last week preferred to proceed differently. They obviously have unbundled the previously agreed package again not only by “suggesting” (whatever that means) that Articles 6 to 8 of the Regulation implementing enhanced cooperation in the area of the creation of unitary patent protection to be adopted by the Council and the European Parliament be deleted, and, not spoken out explicitly, be re-introduced into the Court agreement. Moreover, also the rules governing the accessibility of the central division vis-a-vis the regional chambers have been altered.
A precise idea as how to implement this has already been noted down in EU Council Document 11959/12 titled Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and the of the Council implementing enhanced cooperation in the area of the creation of unitary patent protection – Approval of an amendment to the final compromise text, which however, is not accessible to the general public. Cowardly as our political elite meanwhile appears to be, they more and more get used to withhold crucial documents like this, thereby uttering flimsy excuses to the effect that they never would be able to ever reach an agreement if the contents thereof is widely known – or something similar.
But behind the scenes, clouds are gathering in the European Parliament. This week sessions will be held in Strasbourg, and just now when I am writing this posting the MEPs probably are hurrying to get to the Parliament premises there in order to be present in time when deliberations begin.
Continue reading »
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The EU Council thus made a big step forward on its way to achieve the final goal, as expressed in the annex of Doc 10059/12 of 24 May 2012:
On the 1st of April 2014 the system should be ready for the first registration of a European patent with unitary effect.
However, a number of steps – and one big legal problem – still remain to be taken. Already this July, the EU Parliament will have its first plenary session on the EU Patent Package that was postponed on 19 December 2011 by JURI (cf. minutes) and the EU Council will consider the issue as well:
- 3./4. July 2012: Parliamentary deliberations and votes on the three aspects of the “EU Patent Package” (unitary patent, translation arrangement, unified patent court);
- July 2012: Adoption of the Unitary Patent Regulation (unitary patent, translation arrangement) by the EU Council.
But it cannot be expected that the process will run smoothly, as the top-level negotiations at last week’s EU Summit ‘suggested’ – apparently under the pressure of David Cameron and eurosceptic Tory MPs lead by Bill Cash, Chairman of the influential Scrutiny Committee and ‘herald of the apocalypse‘ -
that Articles 6 to 8 of the [Unitary Patent] Regulation [...] to be adopted by the Council and the European Parliament be deleted.
The k/s/n/h::law blog
Some of the patent attorneys of the KSNH law firm have joined their efforts to research what is going on in the various branches of IP law and practice in order to keep themselves, their clients as well as interested circles of the public up to date. This blog is intended to present results of such efforts to a wider public.
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- kelle on Germany: Copyright Protection More Easily Available For Works Of “Applied Arts”
- Time Limits & Deadlines in Draft UPCA RoP: Counting The Days - KSNH Law - Intangible.Me on Wiki Edition of Agreement on Unified Patent Court Agreement (UPCA)
- Time Limits & Deadlines in Draft UPCA RoP: Counting The Days | ksnh::law on Wiki Edition of Agreement on Unified Patent Court Agreement (UPCA)
- Wiki Edition of Agreement on Unified Patent Cou... on Wiki Edition of Agreement on Unified Patent Court Agreement (UPCA)
- European Commission Takes Next Step Towards Legalising Software Patents in Europe | Techrights on EU Commission publishes Proposal of amendend Brussels I Regulation for ensuring Enforcement of UPC Judgements
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