Munich, 17 October 2013
PR PCE 185
ong>Keynoteong> ong>addressong> ong>byong> ong>Presidentong> of the European Council
ong>Hermanong> ong>Vanong> ong>Rompuyong>
on the occasion of the 40 years anniversary
of the European Patent Convention
Es ist mir ein großes Vergnügen, wieder in München zu sein, dieser dynamischen und
weltoffenen Stadt. Und ich freue mich, dass ich hier heute mit Ihnen den 40. Jahrestag
eines Meilensteins in der Geschichte der europäischen Innovation begehen kann - des
europäischen Patentübereinkommens von 1973. atürlich bin ich mit bewusst, dass der
Jahrestag eigentlich am 5. Oktober gewesen wäre. Aber glauben Sie mir, als Belgier und
als Bierliebhaber habe ich größtes Verständnis dafür, dass das Oktoberfest vorgehen
It is a great pleasure to be back in the dynamic city of Munich, and to be able to join you
today to mark the fortieth anniversary of this milestone in the history of European
innovation, the European Patent Convention of 1973. Of course the proper anniversary
would have actually been on 5th October, but as a Belgian I can understand that the
Oktoberfest should take precedence!
The Patent Convention may be little known ong>byong> the general public today, but it was one of
those moments of insight and inspiration, that opened a new field of European integration.
The bet was that a European patent could be an even stronger incentive to be inventive.
That with innovation spreading further, faster, progress would benefit all Europeans.
The European Patent Office found a good home for these four decades in Munich, a city
that is no stranger to innovation. Many inventions have spread from here across Europe,
and throughout history, several sons of this city, like Rudolf Diesel, have become
household names precisely thanks to their patents.
P R E S S
Dirk De Backer - Spokesperson of the ong>Presidentong> - +32 (0)2 281 9768 - +32 (0)497 59 99 19
Preben Aamann - Deputy Spokesperson of the ong>Presidentong> - +32 (0)2 281 2060 - +32 (0)476 85 05 43
EUCO 207/13 1
Along one another, the City and the Office have well adapted to changing times – a tour
around Munich's start-ups and multinationals would probably offer a good flavour of the
type of innovations that are today the daily bread of the staff of the Patent Office.
It has been quite a journey since the very first European patent, patent "EP-001"! (which
incidentally went to a European body, Euratom). Of course, even in 1973, the idea of
protecting inventions across borders was nothing new. In fact, as soon as countries started
setting up patent systems two or three hundred years ago, they started to receive
applications from inventors from abroad.
Already in the eighteenth century, long before there was a patent in the German lands,
people like the Bavarian Johan Senefelder, who invented lithography, were busy trying to
secure right for their inventions in other countries across Europe. But as Senefelder and his
successors found out soon, protecting an idea across borders can be a cumbersome
business. Which was why the idea at the heart of the European Patent Convention was a
revolutionary step. Like the best ideas, it was a simple one: a single European patent
covering the whole of Europe. This step was the start of an odyssey – an odyssey that
lasted forty years, and that brought together 38 countries, including all the 28 European
Union member states. Forty years that saw a steady increase in activity for the European
Patent Office: 4 to 5% new patents every year, not a bad growth rate! The forefathers were
right: there was a market. And with 260,000 applications last year, demand has exceeded
ong>byong> far their highest hopes.
But the dream of a truly single patent still isn't fully fulfilled. We've never been so near.
With the final decision last December ong>byong> the Parliament and the Council of Ministers,
building on the agreement among EU leaders at the European Council of June 2012: years
– decades! – of negotiations have come to a close.
For companies, what improvements will the Unitary Patent and the Unified Patent Court
- Automatic coverage in 25 EU member states;
- no longer having to deal with different procedures and formalities and not longer having
to provide translations in the local language in each individual countries;
- no longer having to litigate in different national courts.
In short, a real "one stop-shop", that takes care not only of requests (like with EPO patents
already today), but also of deliveries (with a single validation) and after sales (with a
centralised court). Meaning less time, less money, less worry – and larger markets. Which
makes so much sense.
What doesn't really make sense is that it's taken so long for us to get there. But the one
conclusion we must draw from this long wait is that we cannot afford to wait a minute
longer. The political decisions have been taken; there is an agreement. It might not be
perfect, but the fact is that it is there, and that Europeans have been waiting for it for
already too long. There is huge potential – now we just need to get it going!
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Of course, I call upon all the governments involved to ratify the agreement as soon as can
be. But beyond the ratifications, it is also about making all the practical arrangements to
get it up and going. We need a quality system that inspires trust. A simple system that is
straightforward and swift. On this, we simply cannot disappoint.
We'll also have to keep a close eye on the price tag. Affordability of course is going to be
key. So even on issues like renewal fees, we need workable solutions. Solutions that allow
the new Unitary Patent to best service its public and European innovators at large. Because
the real test of success will be in its adoption ong>byong> those that it is precisely designed to help:
Europe's innovative brains.
And for these people driving innovation, Ladies and Gentlemen, the Unitary Patent can be
a fabulous tool. To be patentable, an idea must be "new, industrially applicable and involve
an inventive step." It's a tool to incubate and nurture, to connect and expand. To bring
inventions to the markets, and turn ideas into real business. Into real business, but also into
real instruments for human progress. Indeed, as I said earlier, it's precisely because they
provide some protection that patents can help ideas to spread and develop.
In the first place, naturally, because they are an incentive to be inventive. But securing a
patent is not just about cashing in on your invention. It's also about letting others in on your
idea, explaining how it really works. So that eventually, others can build on it – they can't
copy it as such, but they can take it one innovative step further. And in an world of open,
digital data, where patent registers can be explored at a mouse-click from anywhere in the
world, with light-speed automatic translation – it means it's never been so easy to seek
inspiration in what already exists.
In this globalised market place for ideas, Ladies and gentlemen,……maintaining our
competitiveness is going to be more vital than ever. We live in a world where a third of all
European jobs, and 90% of all our exports derive from IPR-intensive industries. So of
course intellectual property now matters like never before. It's a key step in the innovation
chain, with jobs and growth as the end-goal in mind.
As a world-wide player on these issues, Europe has a strong voice in the global discussion
on intellectual property, and our common weight allows us to be heard loud and clear. It's a
very fast moving debate, with new aspects – also ethical – at stake. As a Union, our
ambition is help set the best standards and practices for the world. There needs to be the
right balance between the interests of inventors and businesses, and those of societies and
citizens – an issue on which there would be a lot to say.
Promoting this balance – that is the principle behind our work in multilateral arenas, and
it's also what drives our bilateral trade negotiations too, for instance with the United States.
And in that respect, I'm convinced the Unitary Patent can also be a game-changer in quality
standard-setting also beyond Europe. But let us not forget, Ladies and Gentlemen, that
when it comes to innovation, the ground work happens at home. The Unitary Patent will be
a useful tool. But alongside we need a whole tool-box for innovation.
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Indeed, providing quality protection for ideas is good. But there needs to be ideas to
protect in the first place. Or perhaps not just ideas – but rather ideas and the will to turn
them into something bigger, something more concrete.
In essence, that means cultivating an entrepreneurial spirit: having an eye for market
potential, identifying needs and possible solutions to answer those needs. And sometimes I
feel that this spirit – the spirit of every-day innovation – is something that we in Europe
constantly have to re-conquer.
In a truly, deeply innovating society, innovation seldom makes the headlines because it
happens constantly, daily, in every single sector. Not just in science labs, but in every
workshop, in every office, behind every computer, in every meeting room. Beyond the
technological outbursts, it's that constant flow that can really generate jobs and help the
One thing we do have in Europe is world-class science… but we need to become
outstanding at bringing ideas to markets too. Otherwise others will do it for us, with our
ideas. As they did with the World Wide Web, which was invented in Switzerland, at the
I am certain that behind most future scientific breakthroughs, there will be some European
brainpower, some European research. We know we will be there, on the way towards nonpolluting
cars, the mapping of the human brain, thorium energy, the cures for cancer, for
But what we need to ask ourselves is: will we Europeans also be there when it comes to
turning tomorrow's scientific brainwaves into real business for the day after? With the
crisis, we know we need to rely more than ever on our companies' capacity to innovate.
We’ve how those countries that kept investing in R&D have weathered those last years
better than others.
That's one of the reasons why despite the EU's tighter common budget for the years ahead,
we've increased future spending to improve European competitiveness ong>byong> 40%; why
leaders focus so much on innovation and competitiveness at all our European Council
meetings – from energy to industry, from defence to digital matters.
Of course, a common emphasis on competitiveness and innovation don't mean a "single"
innovation policy! Indeed, each sector has its own specific characteristics. We cannot
apply a uniform approach to heterogeneous markets.
"Aerospace and defence" aren't the same as "biotech" or "pharmaceuticals" and, even
within a larger category like "aerospace and defence", the defence market is not the same
one as the space market which is absolutely not comparable to the aeronautical market.
Which is why we emphasise sectorial approaches, it's the only way for progress towards a
really integrated Single Market.
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So in exactly a week's time, I will be bringing together our Union's 28 presidents and prime
ministers for an in-depth discussion on innovation, looking more specifically at it in
relation to our digital economy.
This is exactly the kind of sector we need to be serious about, if we're going to give our
economies the real innovation ecosystems they deserve. And ong>byong> 'we' I mean us all – the
European and national authorities, the industry organisations, the business stakeholders.
How, in this day and age, can we expect companies to think European to see the whole
Union as their playing field, as their launch-pad to conquer the world,… when it navigating
digitally through Europe can still be an unnecessary struggle? When you have to negotiate
a new telecom contract for every country, when you struggle to access the same online
content from one country to another because it is geographically blocked…? It's ironic, but
today, while travel and trade have become truly boundless, the real borders within Europe
are online ones. And surely that's not good enough.
The digital economy of Europe has huge untapped potential. Worldwide, it is a sector that
is due to grow ong>byong> 8% every year, a sector that is changing all the others. If, collectively,
our countries want to attract the businesses, the entrepreneurs, the start-ups who will be
making this growth happen – then obviously, collectively, our countries need to keep up,
they need to anticipate. And that's precisely what we're intending to do.
I want a situation where high-tech start-ups from Los Angeles, from Rio, from Shanghai
move to Europe to stage their success stories. Not the other way around. And I believe that
many entrepreneurs worldwide actually do identify with our values, our way of life, and
appreciate the stability and certainty that can be found in our Union. And I am convinced
that with the right efforts, it is possible to attract them to Europe, to re-profile our continent
as a land of innovation. Also in the eyes of our youth. In their experience, it makes sense to
reconnect with innovation as Europeans.
I think today a Spaniard or a Swiss can feel proud that a great invention like Skype was the
brainchild of three Estonians and a Dane and a Swede. Because it's an inspiring story,
truly "made in Europe". And there are many more, and there will be many more – I have
no doubt about that.
The real stakes are in our schools, in our universities, in our workplaces: to recapture a
sense of inventiveness, to nurture a sense of pride about innovation. A pioneering spirit
which I am sure inspired the young European winners of the Innovation Contest who we
are about to congratulate. May their future inventions, and those of countless generations
of young European inventors, make their way – one day – into pantheons of progress like
the Deutsches Museum! And may we Europeans carry on our journey of innovation, as
Shakespeare would say: "To unpathed waters, to undreamed shores"… to undiscovered
lands. One inventive step at a time! Bleiben wir erfindungsreich, Schritt für Schritt, Tag
für Tag. Thank you. Danke.
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