After having persisted for years, Belgium has finally changed its mind. As from 1 January 2017, European patents drawn up in English can also be validated. A translation in one of the national languages is no longer required.
European patents drawn up in English have, for years, been accepted by the national bodies of 21 member states of the EU, including the Netherlands, France and Germany. Belgium, however, continued to insist that an application drawn up in English should be accompanied by a translation in one of its national languages, i.e. Dutch, French or German, after grant. The government has now dropped this requirement as part of legislation aimed at stimulating the Belgian economy.
Dutch and European patent attorney, Robrecht de Weerdt of EP&C Turnhout welcomes the move, if only because of the high costs that companies have to incur in order to have their European application translated. "Depending on the size of the application, this can cost them up to five or ten thousand euros. That is a sizeable amount and a considerable obstacle for non-European companies wishing to enter the Belgian market. The fact that internationally-orientated Belgian companies have to have an application drawn up in English translated back into one of Belgium's national languages is also not very helpful", according to De Weerdt.
In his opinion, the gains for the world of business could have been a lot more substantial. "The acceptance of an application drawn up in English applies exclusively for European patent applications that are being processed via the European Patent Office (EPO). This granting process takes about four years to complete. Anyone wishing to speed up the process, to take advantage of a tax incentive for his invention, for example, has to file an application with the Belgian Intellectual Property Office. In that case granting will take about eighteen months and the English application will still need to be translated into one of the three national languages”.