One item of business transacted at the special Council meeting in Berlin to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome that appears to have been overlooked in the furore over the revival of the constitutional treaty and the arrest of one of our naval units by Iranian forces is the adoption of the Community patent regulation.
This regulation, which comes into force at midnight, will empower the European Patent Office to grant a Community wide European patent in addition to the nationally designated patents that it grants at present. "This is a day I never thought I would ever see", said Ron Marchant. "It's a bit like Gerry Adams sitting down with Ian Paisley. But that happened last Monday and so has this momentous decision to adopt the regulation. There have been so many false dawns starting with the Community Patent Convention which was unfortunately never ratified and it is good to see something come of it at last. It will of course mean a lot less work for us and it is no coincidence that the regulation coincides with the transmutation of the Patent Office into the UK Intellectual Property Office."
The regulation sets up a Community patent chambers within the framework of the Court of Justice to be headed by Sir Hugh Laddie. There are plans to extend its jurisdiction to cover art 234 references in all intellectual property causes from national courts including the Court of Appeal. "It will put paid to the idea of a European Patent Litigation Agreement which one of my former brethren in the UK has been rooting for", said Sir Hugh with a wry grin.