EU Leaders Agree on Patent Package

After almost 40 years of talks, European Union leaders agreed to cut patent fees by 80%, making the EU more competitive with the United States and Japan in attracting inventors.

This article published with permission from The Burrill Report.

After almost 40 years of talks, European Union leaders agreed to cut patent fees by 80%, making the EU more competitive with the United States and Japan in attracting inventors.

“Intellectual property must not stop at borders,” says parliament member Bernhard Rapkay, who led group that developed the regulation setting up the unified system. “The path towards the introduction of the EU patent was long and troubled, but ultimately it has been worth the effort.”

European leaders hope the single patent will be more attractive for inventors than the current system, where patents issued by the European Patent Office must be validated in all the countries where protection is sought. The new unified patent system is expected to cut costs and eliminate burdensome filing procedures.

The European Commission wants Europe to be more in line with other countries in patent filings. In 2011, only 62,000 patents were granted in Europe, compared to 172,000 in China and 224,000 in the United States.

The unified patent package will provide uniform legal protection in 25 European countries and relies upon three separate pieces of legislation: a law setting up a unitary patent protection system; a language regime, for translating EU patents; and a unified patent court, to be created through an international agreement among EU member states that decide to participate in the program.

Applications and patents will be published in English, French and German. For this reason, Spain and Italy have refused to take part in the unitary patent and have filed a complaint before the Court of Justice of the European Union arguing that the proposed language regime unfairly favors those languages.

Approving the unified patent package was no small feat, considering the failed history of the effort. In 1973, the Munich Convention created a unified community patent, but it was never adopted. The Luxembourg Agreement of 1989, another attempt at unity, was never realized. In 2000, the European Commission proposed an agreement; a 2004 revision was put forward but that was killed by disagreement on language issues. In 2011 the unitary patent proposal was tabled. The current agreement takes effect Jan. 1, 2014 or after thirteen contracting states ratify it, provided that the signatories include the United Kingdom, France and Germany.

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