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Thursday, May 30, 2024 | Back issues
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European High Court|Clings to Patent Powers

(CN) - The European Union can't create a new, binding tribunal for patent lawsuits under international treaty because doing so would improperly divest it and national courts of jurisdiction, the European high court ruled.

The European Council and European Commission had developed the proposal for an international patent court under the European Patent Convention, valid among EU member states and various other countries.

While European law now consists of a bundle of national patents governed by domestic law, the envisioned system would provide an integrated and unitary interpretation of patent law, autonomous from the EU.

The Court of Justice issued an opinion Tuesday shooting down this proposal. It its ruling, the Luxembourg-based court said that such a tribunal would sit outside the judicial framework of the European Union, stripping national courts - as well as the Court of Justice itself - of jurisdiction.

Establishing such a court with the power to interpret and apply both treaty rules and EU law "would alter the essential character" of powers granted to EU institutions and member states, according to the ruling. This could disrupt cooperation between the Court of Justice and national courts, and allow member states to bypass accountability mechanisms, the court said.

Community Patent Court decisions could never be binding, the Court of Justice asserted.

Although binding courts based on international treaties are allowed by EU law in principle, and indeed already exist, the proposed patent court's jurisdiction - to include interpretation of EU patent law - is just too broad, the Court of Justice said.

The European Court of Human Rights, based in Strasbourg, France, has the power under international treaty to make binding decisions on human rights issues in states belonging to the Council of Europe (distinct from the EU). The human rights court was established concurrently with the Court of Justice. Potential conflicts between the two courts would be resolved when the European Union eventually signs the human rights treaty as a single entity.

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