11 September 2012
Last week in Dublin, from 4 to 7 September, the mood was celebratory, with a double anniversary. Dublin Castle was the venue for the 16th European Patent Judges’ Symposium, exactly 30 years after the first of these events, in 1982, and 20 years after Ireland’s accession to the European Patent Convention, which took effect on 1 August 1992. I would like to take this opportunity to thank our Irish hosts very warmly for the excellent organisation of the meeting. The biannual Symposium has become widely known as the main regular gathering in Europe of judges specialising in patent litigation. Its success rests largely on the high calibre of the participants, with contributions from the most experienced patent judges across Europe, but also from colleagues in other regions.
The purpose of the Symposium is to provide a platform for national judges to exchange views, to report on recent significant developments, and to compare notes on differences in judicial practice. Over the years, the discussions have helped to build a common European understanding of patent matters. The working sessions focus on specific issues, such as – this year – injunctive relief, disclaimers, and the bifurcation of proceedings between courts competent for invalidity and infringement. The Symposium also has a practical session with a mock trial based on a case study, which is always highly appreciated by the participants. The conclusions from this and the other sessions, together with the speeches and further contributions, are published in our Official Journal and available on our website.
This year, inevitably, much attention was devoted again to the ongoing EU projects – the unitary patent and the Unified Patent Court -, which are now entering the concluding phase of discussion among the EU institutions. The feedback from the Symposium indicates that the participants generally support these projects, although they are waiting for the final outcome of the EU process, particularly with regard to the rules of procedure for the new court.
From the EPO’s vantage point, as I have often said, a sound, balanced and accessible judicial system, able to handle the technical complexity of patent cases, is an essential element in the completion of the European patent system. The quality of decisions in patent litigation depends in turn on the experience of the judges and on a convergence of approaches among judges from different member states. This is the objective of the EPO’s long-standing activities in providing training for judges and enabling them to meet and confer.
The current EU proposals, which in my view represent a viable compromise, should be adopted without further delay, so that ratification can begin soon. The EPO will continue to support these initiatives, in particular with its training programme for European judges.