Uniform Patent System for Europe
Following years of debate, the European Parliament on December 11, 2012, adopted a uniform patent system for 25 of the 27 European Union member countries. (Italy and Spain are not participating at this time.) The new system is scheduled to go into effect on January 1, 2014, provided that 13 EU countries, including Germany, France and the UK, ratify it. In addition, a treaty will be required to create special patent courts in Munich, London and Paris.
The new system will replace the current country-by-country patent rules in which a ruling in one EU country does not automatically have a bearing on any other country. This inconsistent treatment has made it more difficult, time consuming and expensive to protect inventions and innovations in Europe. According to the European Commission (the executive branch of the European Union), the current process has harmed the EU’s competitiveness.
Under the new system, a “unitary” patent granted by the European Patent Office will not require a separate validation in those member countries where protection is sought. Another provision requires that the applications be filed in only English, French or German. This can significantly reduce the translation costs where protection is sought in countries with other languages. The European Commission estimates that the overall cost for obtaining patent protection should drop from about 36,000 euros, or $46,500 to about 6,500 euros, or $8,400.
Whether the new patent system emerges intact from the member countries’ reviews remains to be seen. For example, there have been disagreements concerning the official languages (particularly from Spain and Italy) as well as the proposed procedures for the new patent courts.
Ostrolenk Faber will continue to monitor the validation process which begins in early 2013 and will report the developments on our web site.