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9 December 2013
The EPO's Economic and Scientific Advisory Board (ESAB) brought together some 60 international patent experts at the EPO headquarters in Munich last week (3/4 December) for a two-day workshop dedicated to the economic effects of the unitary patent and the Unified Patent Court. This was the fourth such event organised by the ESAB, following three events last year on patent thickets, fees and patent quality. The aim of the workshop was to improve understanding of the economic aspects of the unitary patent and the Unified Patent Court. To this end, the preliminary findings of an economic study commissioned by the ESAB were presented at the workshop.
There was a lively discussion among the economists, lawyers, judges, patent professionals, industry representatives and member state delegates present on the expected benefits and potential disadvantages of the unitary patent and Unified Patent Court, from the perspective of inventors and various other stakeholders.
The overall feeling in the workshop was that the unitary patent is a positive development. In particular, the reduction in translation and validation costs and the lowering of the administrative burden were seen as important benefits. While the renewal fee of the unitary patent is unknown at this stage, participants expected to see an overall reduction. At the same time participants agreed that the benefits will vary among technology fields, and size and type of firms. A potential disadvantage of the unitary patent mentioned is the lack of renewal flexibility by country. Some participants also cited the increased complexity of patent options in Europe, whereas other participants appreciated the increase in choice.
With respect to the Unified Patent Court, participants discussed various aspects such as increased legal certainty due to a harmonised interpretation of law, faster decisions, higher quality decisions and cost savings due to single litigation action, initial uncertainty because of unfamiliarity with the new court and the "all-or-nothing" aspect of decisions. A detailed assessment of the benefits and drawbacks of the UPC is not possible at this point, given that important parameters of the system have not yet been determined.
EPO president Benoît Battistelli addressed the participants of the ESAB workshop, stressing that "moving forward with the completion of the European patent system, with the unitary patent and Unified Patent Court, is an economic imperative".
A detailed report on the workshop will be published on the EPO website, where reports on the previous three workshops in this series are already available.