Unitary EU patent one step closer to reality

On 20 December 2011 the European Parliament's Legal Affairs Committee voted in favour of the so-called "EU patent package" - proposed legislation to create a unitary patent which would, when granted, automatically be valid in nearly all EU Member States without the current costs involved in country-by-country validation and translation.  Earlier this year, 25 of the 27 EU member states were given consent to start enhanced cooperation in the area of unitary patent protection, which led to the draft regulation now on its way to the European Parliament.  Spain and Italy have so far declined to join the unitary patent system due to disagreements over language and translation arrangements.  As part of the EU patent package a central patent court will be established and its location has yet to be decided.  It has been reported that London, Paris and Munich have all put in a bid for the new court, but it appears that a decision will be deferred until 2012.
The proposed EU unitary patent system aims to cut costs for businesses and boost the EU's competitiveness with countries such as Japan and the USA. While the proposals have been particularly welcomed as opening access to pan-European patents to small- and medium-sized businesses, there remain concerns over how the unified patent court will work in practice when deciding issues of patent infringement and validity. Before the new regulation becomes final it must be endorsed by the European Parliament and the EU Council.  However it is expected that the system may be in force by the start of 2014. As the details of the new legislation become clear we will be able to provide further advice to our clients.