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Turning ideas into assets

The London Agreement

- how the London Agreement affects requirements for translation of European patents

The language system of the European Patent Convention (EPC)

Applications for a European patent filed at the European Patent Office (EPO) can be in English, German or French. Granted patents will be published in the language of the application; however, a translation of the claims in all three languages is required; see article EPC 14(5) and 14(6). At present, in accordance with EPC article 65(1), almost all of the 32 EPC states require that granted European patents are translated into the national language of the designated state. Filing a translation of a European patent at the national patent office (validation) is a prerequisite to obtaining validity of the patent in the state concerned. Translation of patents is costly and users of the system have long desired translation costs limited.

In 2000, with this in view, France, Germany, England, Liechtenstein, Monaco, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Sweden and Denmark agreed to make changes to the demanding requirements for translations, in what became the London Agreement. Since then Iceland, Latvia, Luxembourg and Slovenia have also joined the group.

The London Agreement – the new requirements

The London Agreement contains the rule that countries having either English, German or French as their national language can no longer require that the patent description is translated into other national languages.

Countries which do not have German, English or French as their national language have the choice to demand that the entire patent document is translated into one of these languages. As such, Denmark has selected English. This means that patents that have been published in German or French have to be translated into English for validation in Denmark. In addition to this these countries also have the option to require that the claims are translated into their national language.

Denmark has, as mentioned, decided that the patent document has to be in English, with a translation in Danish of the claims only. However, it is still possible to file a Danish translation of the entire patent document if so desired.

The London Agreement's date of commencement

The London Agreement came into effect on May 1, 2008 for a number of European countries, including Denmark.

Which patent applications does the London Agreement apply to?

The London Agreement covers applications for which notice of grant has been published in the European Patent Bulletin after 1 may 2008 and amended patents if the European Patent Office has published notice of grant before 1 may 2008 but after that date has decided to maintain the patent in an amended form. 

An example of the new possibilities for a Danish patent holder

France, Germany, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco and Switzerland have one of the three official EPO languages as their national language. So for these countries a patent application filed and granted in English e.g. does not have to be translated into French or German (apart from the claims). Holland, Sweden, Denmark and Iceland have also chosen to require that the patent description is translated into English and that the claims are translated into their national language. The same will probably be the case for Latvia and Slovenia.

A Danish patent holder, who, for example, wants a European patent in France, Germany, England, Holland, Switzerland, Denmark and Sweden, can file a European patent application in English and, when the patent has been granted and published, only the claims will have to be translated into French, German, Danish, Swedish and Dutch.

Compared with the previous requirements for translation of patents there has clearly been a sizeable reduction in the amount of translation required for companies seeking patent protection in the countries mentioned above.