10 May 2013
This week, to mark Europe Day on 9 May, I was very pleased to welcome to Munich Mr Rapkay from the European Parliament, who played an instrumental role in the unitary patent project, along with many representatives from the EU institutions, the Bavarian government, the Bavarian parliament and the City of Munich plus several distinguished members of the Consular Corps. Europe Day in Munich provides a welcome opportunity to bring together high-ranking figures from the worlds of industry, politics and international co‑operation in a celebration of the European idea which inspired the establishment of the European Patent Office and which continues to govern its activities. Although the EPO is not a European Union institution – representing, as we do, a larger Europe – we feel decidedly European. Since the outset, we have been working with the EU institutions to promote innovation and growth in Europe.
The original aim of the EPO’s architects was to overcome the national fragmentation of the patent system. The EPO offers a centralised procedure for receiving and examining patent applications, up to the point at which a patent is granted: this streamlined patent granting system has proved remarkably successful. The EPO is a practical example of European integration and represents what Europe can achieve when it decides to pool its resources and work together towards a common goal. A new chapter in this success story began at the end of last year when the EU institutions finally set their seal on the package of measures to introduce the unitary patent. For the European patent system and its users, this decision represents a historic breakthrough, bringing Europe closer to the creation of a truly supranational patent system, something that has been under discussion for several decades and eagerly awaited by industry.
As Europe’s knowledge-based economy moves forward, the importance of a strong and integrated patent system continues to grow. In this sense the advent of the unitary patent is a momentous step. It is a development which has been made possible by the co‑operation between the EPO and its EU partners and which will further strengthen the ties between us. European projects are built on a common willingness to achieve goals. It is our duty to remain on the course charted by the founding fathers, each generation in turn playing its part. I would like to recall the words of one of those men, Robert Schuman, a truly visionary European. He used to call for “that fusion of interest which is indispensable to the establishment of a common economic system” as a means not only of fostering growth and prosperity, but also of establishing “a wider and deeper community between countries”.
That aim still rings true today and the EPO is committed to doing everything in its remit to achieve Europe’s common goals.