A new proposal by European Union governments could signal the end of a years-long struggle for a unified European patent and patent court. The compromise, which has the support of the European Commission (EC), appears likely to make it through the European Parliament despite pockets of resistance.
The working group of the Council of the European Union agreed on the patent package on 19 November, the EC said. The package consists of a regulation creating a European unitary patent through enhanced cooperation of 25 of the 27 member states (Spain and Italy are not participating); a separate regulation establishing a language regime for the patent; and an international agreement involving 26 EU countries setting up a single, specialised jurisdiction to hear patent cases.
Under the compromise, there will be a one-stop-shop for unitary patents at the European Patent Office (EPO) in Munich, and the patent will be effective in 25 EU countries, the EC said. After a 12-year transitional period, there will be a language regime that works in 23 languages before and after a patent registration procedure at the EPO. Requests for registrations can be filed in all EU languages, and will be processed in one of the three working languages of the EPO – English, French and German. After registration, patent claims and descriptions will be translated into all languages. The agreement will cut the translation costs for obtaining a single EU patent by 80 percent, the EC said.
The compromise creates a specialised unitary patent court, eliminating the need to litigate the same patent in different territories, the EC said. All governments agreed that the court will be seated in Paris, with a satellite court in London to handle chemical and pharmaceutical patents, and another in Munich to deal with mechanical engineering patents. All companies, no matter where established, can obtain a unitary patent, the EC said.
Unitary Patent “Will Make a Difference”
An EC impact assessment shows that the total cost of obtaining patent protection in Europe now is €36,157 euros. A unitary patent in 25 member states will cost €6,425 during the 12-year transition period, and €4,725 after that period, it says. By comparison, the total cost of a patent in the United States is €1,850.
The Council is expected to adopt the proposed compromise on 10 December, and Parliament may debate and vote on it the same week, JURI said. If the package clears the legislature, the two regulations could be adopted by 21 December, with an agreement for the patent court signed by governments on 18 February, the EC said. The package won’t become effective until EU countries ratify the international accord, it said. If that happens before 1 November 2013, the first unitary patent could be granted in April 2014, it said.
The original EC proposal is here [pdf].