The Unitary European Patent, to be created by 25 member states through enhanced cooperation, will simplify administration, cut expenses, and strengthen legal security.
The EU’s unitary patent has been an issue since 2000, when the Commission proposed a unitary Community patent within the patent system, introduced by the European Patent Convention in the 1970s. The thrust of the proposal was to simplify language regime, however, the member states could not agree on the language regime, therefore in 2003, the idea came to prevail that patent applicants must arrange for translations in all official languages of the EU, and bear the related costs.
The debate was re-launched in 2007, when the Commission published a communication, on the enhancement of the European patent system. In 2008, the Slovenian Presidency proposed new simplified and cost-effective translation arrangements. Since the Lisbon Treaty came into effect, this has been subject to a special legislative procedure, which requires the Council’s consensus. Despite all efforts of the Belgian Presidency, the proposed compromise failed to secure the support of each member state at the Competitiveness Council’s extraordinary meeting in November 2010.
Presently, the European patent protection system is fragmented. Today a European patent is only registered in an average of five member states, because of the administrative and financial burdens, despite investors’ interest in obtaining patent protection with validity across the EU, to protect their inventions from third-country products that usurp copyrights. Simplified patenting would also promote research and development, ensuring the exclusive right to an invention is indispensable for the return of R&D investments.
The fragmented nature of the EU’s patent protection system is a competitive disadvantage as opposed to other economic powers; as European investors cannot enjoy all the advantages of the single market. They may find it more attractive to apply for a patent in economies with a greater market and a unitary patent system, like the USA or Japan. Enhanced cooperation provides a solution to all these problems, simplifies the acquisition of patent in the entire EU, and significantly reduces the costs of investors in all participating and other member states of the EU.
According to an impact study made at the request of the Commission, a patent with validity across the EU costs 22 to 26 thousand Euros. By contrast, the Unitary European Patent’s rules would set registration costs at less than 700 Euros per patent.
In the new system you submit an application for patent protection, with validity throughout the EU, in any of the three official languages (English, French and German) of the EPO (European Patent Organisation), and the EPO would translate it into two other official languages of the EU.