The aim of ‘A Practitioner’s Guide to European Patent Law’ is to provide a comprehensive and practical guide to European patent law, which is a challenging task given that there is no single source of such law.
As is well known, there is no common and harmonised set of rules that govern patent validity and infringement across Europe. Although the European Patent Convention set the basis of harmonisation by creating a centralised patent-granting system under a single legal instrument, national courts maintained their authority to decide on the validity and infringement of European Patents, in the same way as with national patents. Additionally, the Unified Patent Court (UPC) project, that would create a centralised judicial authority for disputes on the validity and infringement of European Patents with unitary effect, is (still) no closer to completion.
In this context, the intention of Paul England (and Sara Burghart, Judith Krens and François Pochart) in ‘A Practitioner’s Guide to European Patent Law’ is two-fold. On the one hand, to outline the areas of uniformity and discrepancy in the case law of the European Patent Office (EPO) and key European patent law jurisdictions (England and Wales, Germany, France and the Netherlands) over which the UPC would have to establish a common approach. On the other hand, and despite the uncertain fate of the UPC, to provide a useful guide to European practitioners on how the most relevant patent issues have been addressed in those leading European jurisdictions.
The book is structured in line with these objectives: the chapters are divided by topic rather than by jurisdiction and each chapter discusses the common statutory basis and the differences and similarities between the main European legal systems. The work has 350 pages and 15 chapters that cover the most relevant topics in a well-structured and comprehensible way; all excellently supported by references to the relevant case law from national courts and the board of appeal of the EPO.
The authors did not intend to plunge into the depths European patent law, but to cover a wide range of patent issues that practitioners are usually faced with, typically substantive matters rather than country-specific or UPC procedural regulations. The book has been written in a way that ensures that it will be well-thumbed through by practitioners, rather than read once and shelved. In particular, the book covers the concept of ‘skilled person’ and common general knowledge, scope of protection, infringement (both direct and indirect), defences, remedies, patentability and industrial application, novelty, inventive step, sufficiency and plausibility. The book also includes chapters on supplementary protection certificates, patent ownership and cross-border actions in Europe, and a chapter to briefly explore the impact of Brexit and the potential participation of the UK in the UPC, an outcome that seems rather improbable nowadays. The book is particularly useful because every chapter addresses the most relevant practical issues, and because it goes straight to the point for each of them.
‘A Practitioner’s Guide to European Patent Law’ manages to both systematise and provide an overview of the main common principles of European patent law and be a reference guide for European Intellectual Property practitioners. This book will be a very valuable tool in a practitioner’s day-to-day practice, and, perhaps one day, will also serve as a useful reference guide to the common legal principles to be developed by the UPC.
Alberto Torralba is a practising lawyer in Madrid, Spain. His expertise covers intellectual property law, with a special focus on patent litigation.