By Donald Zuhn --
On Tuesday, the European Patent Office reported that the European Parliament in Strasbourg had adopted two draft regulations on the creation of the unitary patent. The EPO hailed the adoption of the draft regulations as "a historic achievement." EPO President Benoît Battistelli declared that "[t]he 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." President Battistelli added that the unitary patent would cut patenting costs in Europe and "strongly benefit European enterprises, especially research centres and SMEs," as well as "strengthen Europe's competitiveness."
The unitary patent, which will co-exist with national patents and the classical European patent, will provide protection for inventors in 25 EU member states through one single administrative step. The unitary patent will differ from European patents with respect to the post-grant phase -- i.e., unitary patents will be treated as a single patent that does not require validation (including translation) and that does not need to be administered nationally in each and every state. The unitary patent is based on two regulations, one creating the instrument, and one on the applicable language regime for the new patent. According to the EPO release, the positive vote in the Parliament became possible after 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 the EPO said is expected soon. It has been noted, however, that the unitary patent could still face a legal challenge from Italy and Spain, two EU member states that have challenged the unitary patent at the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) (see "Progress for Single European Patent and Litigation System").
The EPO will be responsible for delivering and administering unitary patents. The Office said it expects to validate the first unitary patent in 2014.
According to the EPO release, an agreement establishing the Unified Patent Court (UPC), a specialized court having exclusive jurisdiction over infringement and validity questions related to unitary patents, is expected to be signed on February 18, 2013 and will enter into force once thirteen EU member states have ratified the package, including France, Germany and the United Kingdom.
For additional information regarding this topic please see:
• "Unitary Patent & Unified Patent Court," December 12, 2012
• "Progress for Single European Patent and Litigation System," November 12, 2012
• "EU Patent Is Finally Born," July 2, 2012
• "European Parliament Approves Enhanced Cooperation Procedure to Create Unified EP Patent System," March 1, 2011
• "Several EU Members Push for Unified Patent System," December 30, 2010
• "Europe Takes Step Closer to Single EU Patent and Patent Court," February 24, 2010