EPLA: Things You Need to Know about the European Patent Litigation Agreement

EPLA, also known as the Draft Agreement on the Establishment of a European Patent Litigation System, is a form of patent law that is similar to the Unified Patent Court Agreement that is coordinated by the European Council and Commission. However, unlike UPCA, the European Patent Litigation Agreement is coordinated by the European Patent Office. This means that it offers an opportunity for people from the non-EU countries to participate.

The European Commission didn’t take lightly to EPLA and proclaimed it to be unlawful. The situation changed in 2006 when the EC started to actively promote mutual recognition of patents between EU and non-EU nations. This active promo campaign in “harmonization” resulted in the inspiring speech by Charlie McCreevy (European Commissioner for Internal Market and Services) on the 12th of July 2006. At that time, he proclaimed that EPLA offered some promise in regards of developing a unitary jurisdiction for national patents. The seeming success was marred in October of the same year when the European Parliament stated that the text of the Agreement required numerous changes before it can be formally accepted.

The situation with EPLA got worse in the beginning of 2007 as its Article 98 directly conflicted with the Article 292 of the EC Treaty for the Member States of the European Union. The two groups, those who supported and those who fought against EPLA got into a heated debate with the former group losing.

The initial EPLA draft introduced in 2003 offered to create a special body that will regulate all the patents within its jurisdiction. It was called EPJ, European Patent Judiciary, and comprised of two parts:

  1. Administrative Committee
  2. European Patent Court

According to the draft, EPJ should establish regional patent chambers, making the national patent courts things of the past. The court that was a part of EPJ would be granted the power to decide all the patent related matters of the EPO member states.

The biggest problem that prevented successful implementation of EPLA was the lack of competence from the EU member countries. They simply could not develop an effective system that would meet such high standards, as long as it fell outside of their legal framework, which was exactly the case. Some of the EU member states also had a few more specific (constitutional) issues with this particular document, like France.

There is no doubt that the idea of EPLA was impressive and quite a few professionals managed to appreciate it. Unfortunately, it is currently impossible to implement successfully.

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