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German Federal Minister of Justice Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger met with European Patent Office (EPO) President Benoît Battistelli at the EPO headquarters in Munich today to discuss developments in the European patent system, and in particular the future unitary patent.
Both sides welcomed the agreement reached late last year by 25 members to adopt the unitary patent, along with a unified patent court, which is expected to render access to patent protection more attractive and affordable for European businesses, especially SMEs and research institutions.
"Europe's economy is in urgent need of more innovation," said Minister Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger. "Patent system reform in the European Union was therefore decades overdue. In the future it will be possible to get unitary patent protection, and enforce it, for almost the entire territory of the EU. This will considerably increase the incentive for innovative companies to develop technical inventions and bring them to market. We will now implement the agreed reforms in an expeditious manner so that the new system can be up and running in 2015."
"We are pleased that in this year, which marks the 40th anniversary of the signing of the European Patent Convention which set up the European patent system, we are finally about to close that last important gap which was left open in 1973," said Mr Battistelli. "This is a key step forward to improve Europe's global competitiveness, and we at the EPO are very proud that the EU has entrusted us to grant and administer the unitary patent."
Mr Battistelli and Ms Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger discussed preparations for setting up the new unitary patent system, and the implications it will have for both participating EU member states and the EPO. The meeting was also a good opportunity to consider EPO's recent projects and achievements to further improve the patent examination process and patent information dissemination, such as Cooperative Patent Classification (CPC) and Patent Translate. The number of European patent filings from German companies and inventors increased in 2012 (34 167 filings, +2.1% compared to 2011), with Germany ranking first in Europe and third at global level.
In a special ceremony, Minister Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger signed the EPO Guest Book in recognition of the contribution the European Patent Office has made to the safeguarding of European progress and technological development. The Minister also expressed her deep appreciation of the EPO's continuous work together with the member states to build up a European patent system of the highest quality and standards.