Patent translation costs set to fall as France signs pact

An agreement that could slash the cost of filing a patent across Europe can come into force after the French Government signed up to the system. Called the London Agreement, it could not take effect without French backing.

The Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys has said that the move could cut the average cost of a European patent for small and medium-sized companies by €7,000.

The Agreement is designed to cut the cost of translating patents. It does away with the need to have an entire patent application translated into the language of every country in which the applicant wants it to take effect.

Countries where English, French and German is not the native tongue will choose one of these to be their language of patents. As long as the patent is available in that language, the patent holder will not have to translate it into the official language of that country.

For countries where English, French or German is the official language the patent holder will not have to produce a translation as long as the patent is in one of those three languages. The short patent claim which outlines the scope of the patent will have to be produced in all three languages, though.

“Businesses here will no longer be put off by the high cost of getting patent protection throughout Europe," said Robert Weston, president of the UK Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys (CIPA). "France’s decision also means that other member states of the European Patent Convention that have not ratified the London Agreement are likely to come under pressure to sign."

When they do, it will mean that a single application, made in just one language, will give patent protection in a market of over 300 million consumers. This will put Europe in a similar to the situation for patenting costs that American companies have enjoyed for decades," he said.

The London Agreement only needs eight countries to sign up to it in order to come into force, and 11 countries have so far signed. It could not come into effect without the approval of the UK, Germany and France, though, so can only now become active.

France's National Assembly last week approved the sing up to the Agreement. The Senate this week ratified the signing of the Agreement, which was produced in 2000. It will take six months for the French decision to take effect.

Previously, a patent holder had to translate a patent into the official language of a country in order for it to take effect. To cover all 32 European Patent Office (EPO) countries and their 22 languages would cost €30,000, said CIPA. The average patent was applied in seven countries at a cost of €7,000, it said.

"This is particularly welcome news for small and medium-sized businesses, as it will reduce the average cost of getting European patent protection by more than €7,000," said Weston.