Speaking in Brussels on 20 December, President of the European Patent Office Alain Pompidou made a further call for European states to move forward with a workable solution for patents. Pompidou, who is set to hand over as EPO president on 1 July 2007 to Alison Brimelow from the UK, also gave a clear warning to France. The country must finally ratify the London Protocol, which reduces translation obligations, so as to prevent an all-English solution.

"If France does not ratify the London Protocol, then ten states, currently negotiating, may move on to an all English-solution. This will receive support by the Portuguese Presidency," warned Pompidou. "Other states will take into account French presidential elections and will wait for 2008. There will be strong pressure to convene a diplomatic conference on the London Protocol," continued Pompidou, who is "absolutely crystal clear" that other states, if France does not move forward, will adopt an all-English solution.

Under the London agreement, concluded in London on 17 October 2000, signatory states undertake to waive, entirely or largely, the requirement for translations of European patents to be filed in their national language, if the patent is in one of the three official EPO languages, namely German, French and English.

"We are on the eve of a significant breakthrough. If France ratifies the London Protocol for a three-language regime, with English, German and French, then the agreement will immediately enter into force. All French-speaking countries will be in a win-win situation if adopted," continued Pompidou. "There is a majority in the French National Assembly and significant support in the Senate". While expressing his certainty that France will finally adopt the agreement in 2008, Pompidou stated that he would have liked to have seen it adopted before the presidential elections next year, as "translation costs could be reduced straight away by 45%." In Brussels for a seminar at the European Parliament, Pompidou also met Belgian Economy Minister Marc Verwilghen. "Belgium is also thinking of ratifying the London Protocol next year," said Pompidou.

The last six months of Pompidou's three-year mandate, split due to EPO members' inability to come to an agreement on a single successor to previous incumbent German Ingo Kuber, coincides with Malta's entry into the organisation, meaning that from this point onwards all EU member states will be involved. Pompidou may also witness further...

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