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Crossing the Language Barrier for EPO Patents

Written by Christina King on 17 September 2007

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An agreement which reduces the costs associated with post grant translation fees for patents granted by the EPO is on course to come into effect in the first half of next year.

At the moment once a patent is granted by the EPO the owner must then translate it into the language of each European country to ensure its validity in that country. This is because post grant a patent is treated as a bundle of national patents and as such must comply with the requirements of each country before it can safely be commercially exploited there.

The London Agreement was drafted back in 2000 to try and cut down on this problem. Under this agreement signatories agree to waive completely or in part the need for all patent documentation to be translated into their national languages. Instead each country will choose one of the official languages of the EPO (English, French or German) which will be used for the majority of the patent documentation; only the claims will then be required to be translated into their own national languages.

Before the agreement can come into force at least 8 of the EPO contracting states must ratify the agreement with the stipulation that the three states where the majority of patents were granted in 1999 (UK, France and Germany) must all ratify the agreement before it can come into effect. France is the last of these 3 to approve the agreement and its ratification is due to take place early next year; allowing the agreement to enter into force approximately 3 months following this.

Current signatories include Germany, UK, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Iceland, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Monaco and Slovenia.

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