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European Union: Agreement on Unitary Patent

(Dec. 14, 2012) On December 11, 2012, the European Union, after several unsuccessful attempts over a period of 30 years, finally succeeded in creating an EU-wide patent, following the European Parliament’s approval of a three-part package of legislative measures on the subject. (Parliament Approves EU Unitary Patent Rules, EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT/NEWS (Dec. 11, 2012).)

The first piece of legislation regulates the establishment of a unitary patent; it was approved by the Parliament and the Council of Ministers through the co-decision procedure. The second item of legislation is on the regime for translating the languages used; it was approved through the consultation procedure. The third piece is a resolution on an agreement among 25 EU Member States to create a unified patent court. The agreement will enter into force on January 1, 2014, provided that 13 EU Members, including <?Germany, France, and the United Kingdom, ratify it. (The New Unitary Patent – Q & A, EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT/NEWS (Dec. 12, 2012).)

The general rules on patent eligibility remain unaffected under the new system. Once it is in place, inventors will be able to apply to the European Patent Organization (EPO), a non- EU body, for a unitary patent. The patent will be valid in all EU Member States, with the exception of Italy and Spain, which opted out of the system. The application must be made in French, English, and German, and the patent will be available in these languages as well. (Parliament Approves EU Unitary Patent Rules, supra.)

It is anticipated that the unitary patent will dramatically reduce the costs involved in obtaining a new patent. Upon full implementation of the new patent system, a patent will cost €4,725 (about US$6,178) compared to the average of €36,000 (about US$47,073) currently required. (Id.)

Litigation on enforcing or revoking a patent will be simplified under the procedures of the new patent court. Rather than litigants needing to initiate legal proceedings in several countries, as under the old system, the decisions of the patent court will be valid throughout the participating EU states. (The New Unitary Patent – Q&A, supra.)