29 March 2011
The patent system is sometimes portrayed as a monopoly-granting machine which is both expensive and difficult to use. That is hardly a balanced view, of course, but I do acknowledge that we must keep working hard to improve access to patent information and to make the system more affordable, especially for European innovators and SMEs.
Last week, I had the opportunity to deal with two inter-connected projects which have the potential to improve things considerably: machine translation in the patent field, and the unitary patent for the EU.
On 24 March, in Brussels, it was my pleasure to announce the signature of a partnership agreement between Google and the EPO on machine translation of patents into multiple European and Asian languages. This agreement is the result of 4 months of negotiations following signature of a Memorandum of Understanding at the end of November. It is not a commercial or financial deal; it is a partnership in which we will pool our technology and know-how in order to offer the best possible service to the public, free of charge and straight from our website. The first language pairs should be available in the coming months, and all the European languages – plus Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Russian – should be covered by the end of 2014.
During my stay in the European capital I was also able to meet several representatives of EU institutions, present the EPO to them and discuss their expectations for implementation of the unitary patent. I was particularly impressed by the determination of the MEPs I met to achieve results in the near future.
So all in all it was a good week for the two main aspects of the patent system: as a tool to boost economic competitiveness and as a means of promoting innovation through the dissemination of technical information.
Tags: EPO EPA Europäisches Patentamt European Patent Office, Google, language patents monopoly co-operation patent system SMEs machine translation innovators inventors unitary patent