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11 December 2012
The European Patent Office (EPO) welcomed the adoption by the European Parliament in Strasbourg today of two draft regulations on the creation of the unitary patent, hailing it as a historic achievement. "The European Union is to be congratulated on this decision, which clears the way for the completion of the European patent system with a unitary patent and a Unified Patent Court, which we have been waiting for in Europe for 40 years," said EPO President Benoît Battistelli. "Cutting the costs of patenting inventions in Europe will strongly benefit European enterprises, especially research centres and SMEs. The vision of the founding fathers of the EPO to equip the European economy with a truly supranational patent system can now become a reality, strengthening Europe's competitiveness."
The European patent with unitary effect (unitary patent) in the 25 participating states is based on two regulations, one creating the instrument, and one on the applicable language regime for the new patent. The EPO has been entrusted by 25 EU member states to deliver and administer unitary patents. The third element of the package is the creation of a unified patent litigation system set up under an international convention establishing the Unified Patent Court (UPC), a specialised court with a first and an appeal instance with exclusive jurisdiction concerning infringement and validity questions related to unitary patents. The positive vote in the Parliament became possible after the EU member states endorsed the regulations in their Competiveness Council meeting on Monday. The unitary patent now has to be formally adopted by the EU Council and the European Parliament, which is expected soon.
Request for unitary patents may be filed once the legal provisions for both the unitary patent and the UPC have entered into force. The agreement establishing the UPC is expected to be signed on 18 February 2013 and will enter into force once thirteen EU member states have ratified the package, including France, Germany and the UK. The EPO expects to validate the first unitary patent in 2014.
The unitary patent will provide legal protection for inventors in 25 EU member states through one single administrative step. It will co-exist with national patents and the classical European patent with which it shares the legal basis and the procedure for grant (as laid out in the European Patent Convention), and from which it differs only in the post-grant phase: Under the unitary patent scheme, the EPO will also be in charge of centrally administering the patent, levying the annual renewal fees and distributing them to the participating EU member states. The fact that unitary patents will be treated as a single patent no longer requiring to be validated (including translation) and administered nationally in each and every state, will lead to massive savings in terms of time and costs. This should make Europe more attractive for innovation and investors and bring it on a par with its competitors in Asia and the US.