Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law

First Page



The formation of the European patent system, which I have presented here only in part and which is still missing one essential element, the Common Market patent, constitutes a milestone in the development of international patent law. No event since the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property in 1883 has so drastically changed the system of protection of inventions as the European patent system will. I do not except the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) signed in Washington in 1970 and entered into force over two years ago. It certainly overcomes the territorial approach of the Paris Convention in that it provides for an international patent application and a single novelty search for several countries. But it leaves the substantive law, as well as the patent granting and examination procedure and the final act of granting the monopoly, to the competence of the individual state for which protection is sought. Notwithstanding the progress attained in international cooperation by the Paris Convention and the PCT, the legal basis of international patent protection is still, as 100 years before, the grant of national patents, through national patent authorities, according to national laws. This territorial or national phase of patent law will be overcome by the European patent system.

We are at the beginning of a new, supranational phase of patent law development. Even though limited in direct effect to Western Europe, the European patent system will certainly provide a model for the establishment of other regional patent systems and will also influence the further development of national patent systems outside of Europe. This seems to me an encouraging perspective which is so urgently needed in our divided world.