“Patent Attorneys Academy” established in Greece

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While in some jurisdictions the concept of a “patent attorney” or also a “patent judge”, referring to persons who not only have knowledge of patent law but also acquire technical expertise in relation to patents, is common, this is not the case in Greece. Of course, there are lawyers with high-level expertise in patent law, as well as sections of the Courts that try cases related to industrial property law. At the same time though, the technical issues of disputed patents are mostly assessed by technical experts who the parties, as well as the Court, may each appoint in order to assist the Court to reach a decision in each case.

This situation does not seem to be about to change drastically any time soon in Greece. This being said however, the term “patent attorney” has very recently been officially added in the Greek legal vocabulary. In particular, Presidential Decree 31/2019, published in the Greek Government Gazette on 5 April 2019 (the issuance of which had been provided in Law 4512/2018, articles 123-124), provides for the establishment of the “Hellenic Industrial Property Academy” (the “Academy”), whose primary purpose will be to develop a system of national education, training and certification in the field of industrial property leading to the acquisition of the title of “certified patent consultant” (“patent attorney”) for successful candidates. “Patent attorney” in this sense would not, necessarily, mean a “patent lawyer” but a “patent consultant” with background studies either in Law or in Science/Technology.

“Patent attorneys”, after obtaining the necessary training and certification by the Academy, would have the capacity to appear, represent clients and file any documents before the Hellenic Industrial Property Organization (Greek Acronym: “OBI”). However, they would not be able to appear before any Greek Judicial Authorities and Courts, where only lawyers registered with a Bar Association can appear and represent their clients. Also, lawyers not certified as patent attorneys would of course continue to have the right to appear before any Administrative or Judicial Authority in relation to patent disputes, including before “OBI”. In other words, the new provisions only add a new category of persons, the “patent attorneys” or “patent consultants”, to those legally capable to appear before “OBI” in the name of a client.

The above-mentioned Academy is established as a service of “OBI”, and will be situated in Athens. The purposes of its establishment, except for the training and certification of “patent attorneys”, include, for example, the development and harmonization of education and training in the field of Greek, European and International industrial property law, the promotion of equal access to educational opportunities in this field, the support of initiatives for the cooperation between “certified patent consultants” (“patent attorneys”) and lawyers specialized in intellectual and industrial property, the cooperation with international organizations, such as the European Patent Office (EPO), as well as with Greek and foreign universities, etc.

The Academy shall provide both various learning programs, courses, seminars, workshops etc., for any interested party, as well as a basic education and training two-year program on patent theory and practice which can lead successful candidates to obtaining the “patent attorney” certification. Part of the Academy’s training programs shall also be carried out in English.

The Academy shall also oversee the national examination that will be taking place three times per year in order to obtain the “patent attorney” certification. Except for some specific cases, such as candidates who have previously succeeded in the EPO’s European qualifying examination, candidates for the national certification shall have successfully concluded the Academy’s two-year basic training program in order to take part in the national examination.

Participants in the Academy’s program will be selected on the basis of their academic profiles and professional experience. It is, however, specifically set out that the candidates shall, as a basic requirement, hold a university degree either in Law or in a filed related to Science, Health or Technology such as, indicatively, Biology, Chemistry, Applied Mathematics, Engineering, IT, Pharmaceuticals or Agriculture.

It now remains to be seen how and if the establishment of OBI’s Academy will have any impact in patent law practice in Greece. It is, of course, very important to develop and enhance education and training in patent related issues for all professionals who are active in this field, and the establishment of the Academy seems to provide very promising prospects in this respect. At the same time, it is important to stress out that court litigation in patent related issues in Greece can only be practiced by lawyers, and that the term “patent attorneys” that is now brought in Greece for the first time will not have the same exact meaning as in other jurisdictions, as their role will mostly focus on consultancy in patent related issues, from, probably, a more technical rather than legal point of view.

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