40-year EU Patent Impasse at an End?

The European Patent Office (EPO), the European Commission body theoretically responsible for evaluation of patent applications, appears closer than at any point in the last 40 years to achieving a more streamlined, less costly and truly centralized process for patent approval.

In a December 13, 2010 post on the blog medtechinsider.com, UBM Canon Editor in Chief Norbert Sparrow notes that medical technology developers accounted for the largest number (more than 12%) of patents filed with the EPO in 2009; according to Sparrow as well as recent Financial Times news (registration required), 10 countries including heavyweights Germany and France have appealed to EU internal market commissioner Michel Barnier to allow those countries to pursue a centralized patent approval system without the involvement of other member states, if necessary (much to the chagrin of Spain and Italy).

If the EU can successfully instill final approval authority within the EPO and do away with the current country-by-country patent granting and approval process, the ramifications for medical device and IVD manufacturers should prove quite beneficial. Caveats regarding the sometimes glacial pace of EU reform processes must of course be emphasized, but nonetheless progress—even if in slow motion—is progress.

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