Changes to the European patent courts will cause havoc for mobile manufacturers, a legal expert has told Mobile.
Smaller companies in particular could be hit by delays of around two years in bringing products to market once the planned central European court for patents is established.
Explaining the changes to Mobile, patent expert James Tumbridge of law firm Pillsbury Winthrop said major problems will arise from the fact that the centralised court will be based on a German approach to patents.
‘A brand new patent court is being set up in Europe which could cause major problems for the telecoms sector,’ he said. ‘The new court will be different to the British court approach to patent disputes and be a very Germanic system.
‘The main difference between the German system and the rest of Europe is having different courts and judges deciding if a patent is valid to those deciding if you infringe it. The German model usually decides infringement first, on the assumption the patent is valid. This is different from markets such as the UK where you can challenge the validity of the patent as a defence to infringement.’
‘The German system makes it easier to get injunctions and means that companies can block new products from the market. If the new court follows the German timetable you could have products off the market for a year or two before proving the patent was invalid and no injunction should have been granted. For small businesses this wait can be very harmful and they may be decide to pay royalties on patents to make the problem go away instead of challenging them.’
Court tactics change
Tumbridge told Mobile that these changes could impact on ‘real world jobs’ discouraging businesses from operating offices in Europe where they could be hampered by injunctions.
‘If injunctions are too easily obtained, and granted on invalid patents this could have a chilling effect on real world jobs. An injunction will stop production, distribution and sale, and so factory workers and those in distribution can all be affected. These issues have been seen in Germany. These concerns could see more manufacturing outside of the EU to avoid pan-European injunction risk.’