When the European Patent Lawyers Association (EPLAW) arranged a meeting in Venice to discuss patent litigation reform in October 2005, no one expected the gathering to produce much more than discussion. After all, patent reform has been a controversial subject in the EU for two decades, and political bickering continues to stall progress at the European Commission.
But the conference's participants included 24 patent judges from 10 European countries, whom EPLAW invited to give their input on the controversy. Most observers expected the jurists to keep a low profile. Instead they surprised everyone by demanding the creation of a unified European patent court. Indeed, Lord Justice Jacob, a signatory and one of the U.K.'s most senior IP judges called the judicial lobbying action "thoroughly unusual."
The European Commission did put forward a modified proposal for a community patent in 2000. But lengthy negotiations over the past five years have stalled over the language regime, the role of national patent offices and the jurisdictional arrangements over enforcement.
Fortunately, the EPO had embarked on its own initiative following the passage of the Treaty of Amsterdam in 1999.