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London Agreement – Reduced Translation Costs of European Patents

London Agreement – Reduced Translation Costs of European Patents

08/02/08

Following the deposit by the French Government on 29 January 2008 of its instrument of ratification, the London Agreement will enter into force on 1 May 2008.

Under current practice, designated countries in which a European patent is to be validated generally require a translation of the full text of the patent if the patent has not been granted in an official language of that country.

The London Agreement aims to simplify this requirement and reduce the associated translation costs by reducing, and in some instances eliminating, the translations  required for validation of a European patent.

For European patents granted on or after 1 May 2008, the translation requirements for those countries that have ratified the Agreement will be determined as follows:

Is one of the three official languages (English, French or German) of the EPO an official language of the country?

    • If yes – then no translation of the patent will be required
    • If no – then translation of the description and claims will be required into one of those three official languages as prescribed by each such country. However a translation of the claims into an official language of the country may also be required by the country.

The London Agreement is not compulsory and it has not yet been accepted by all EPC countries.

Of the countries that have joined the agreement, the following six will not require any translation of the European patent:

France, Germany, Luxembourg, Monaco, Switzerland/Liechtenstein and the United Kingdom.

Four countries not having one of the three EPO official languages as an official languages, namely Croatia, Denmark, Iceland and The Netherlands, have joined the agreement and have chosen English as their prescribed language.

Sweden is set to join on 1st May 2008 and has also prescribed English as its chosen language.

Latvia and Slovenia have not prescribed a language and so will not require any translation.

Now that the Agreement is finally to be implemented, more EPC countries are expected to join.

Thus, under the London Agreement, depending upon the countries that are of interest for validation of a European patent, no translation of the patent text at all may be required, or at least, translation only of the claims may be necessary in order to achieve validation.

However, countries which are parties to the Agreement can require the patent owner to supply a full translation of the patent into an official language of the country should this be called for by an alleged infringer or by a national court in legal proceedings relating to the patent.