01 July 2013
Today, Croatia joined the European Union as its 28th full member. It has already been a member of the European Patent Organisation since 1 January 2008, playing a very active role in both institutional matters and our co-operation activities. Last year in Zagreb, the Croatian IP office and the EPO co-hosted an important European Patent Network meeting involving many other national offices from our member states. One of the five EPO vice-presidents is a Croatian: in 2012, Željko Topić, former head of the Croatian IP office, was appointed to take charge of our directorate-general for “Administration” (including buildings, HR, procurement, and language services). For the EU, in the IP field, Croatia’s accession means further growth in the territory potentially covered by EU trademarks and designs, and also by the future unitary patent once Croatia joins enhanced co-operation. To take part in the Unified Patent Court it will have to sign and ratify the international treaty setting up the new litigation system.
This is also a good opportunity to update you on the work of the Select Committee for the unitary patent, which held its latest meeting in Munich on 25/26 June, in the margins of our Administrative Council’s 136th session. At this third meeting, the committee adopted a communication policy – along the lines of the EPO’s – to enable the general public to keep track of its work by making its documents easily accessible on a dedicated website, hosted by the EPO, which will become available over the next few weeks. Another important outcome was the committee’s decision to admit the two main European users’ associations (BusinessEurope and epi) as observers, a status they already have on the Administrative Council. I am very pleased by this decision, which I strongly supported as the best way for the committee to operate in a modern and transparent manner, with the involvement of the new scheme’s main stakeholders. The committee also adopted rules of procedure, and conducted a first exchange of views on the draft implementing regulations for the unitary patent. So as you can see, we are on the way. For the EPO, one important driver in these discussions is to make sure that the procedures and tools for the post-grant phase are very similar to those already familiar to users of our existing pre-grant phase; that will make their lives easier and keep costs down.
For the Unified Patent Court, the outstanding issues (including IT, finance, legal, and training) are highly diverse, so the work ahead should not be underestimated. However, the powerful political impetus behind the process should ensure good progress towards building a high-quality litigation system. Obviously, the quality of the decisions taken by the future court will have a big impact on the European patent system. Here the EPO stands ready to share the technical and legal experience it has built up over many years.