The European Council on 29 June concluded the negotiations on the EU’s future unitary patent system. The long-awaited decision paves the way for establishing less expensive, simpler and more efficient patent protection for businesses, especially for small and medium-sized enterprises, in the EU.
The leaders had to solve the last outstanding issue: the seat of the Unified Patent Court’s Central Division of the Court of First Instance. They agreed that it would be based in Paris and have two specialised sections, one in London and the other in Munich. The office of the Court’s President will also be based in Paris. The first President of the Court should come from the member state hosting the Court’s Central Division.
The Unified Patent Court will have exclusive competence in respect of actions relating to the validity or infringement of a European unitary patent. This will eliminate the risk of multiple patent lawsuits in different member states concerning the same patent, as well as the risk that court rulings on the same dispute might differ from one member state to another. In addition, the single system will bring down patent litigation costs for businesses significantly. The European Commission has calculated that, with the single court, litigation expenses incurred by European companies can be reduced by approximately 289 million euro each year.
The Unified Patent Court is part of the future unitary patent system in the EU. The other two elements are: a regulation on the unitary patent itself and a regulation on translation arrangements for that patent. The member states and the European Parliament agreed on the two regulations in December 2011.
The future unitary patent would be valid in all participating member states and be obtained with a single application. The use of languages would draw inspiration from the current system managed by the European Patent Office, where the working languages are English, French and German, and this will cut down the costs of acquiring patent protection.
Obtaining a patent that would be valid in 13 member states today can cost up to 20 000 euro, and approximately 14 000 euro of that sum would be spent on translations alone. In comparison, it costs approximately 1 850 euro to obtain an American patent.
“In taking this long-awaited step towards the completion of the European patent system, Europe has demonstrated its conviction that the best way to counter current economic uncertainties is to boost innovation and strengthen the competitiveness of its industry. The simplification of the existing patent system will bring particular benefits to small and medium-sized enterprises and to innovators in universities and research centres," said Benoît Battistelli, President of the European Patent Office.
(Source: European Council/EPO)