The European Union (EU) Parliament is close to approving new regulations for a single patent covering 25 states of the EU. Under these regulations, patents granted by the European Patent Office can cover, and be enforceable in the 25 states that signed the agreement as a single entity. There will be no requirement for the patentee to translate the patent. The languages to be used shall be the ones most widely used currently by The European Patent Office: – English, French and German, and this will cut down the costs of acquiring patent protection. The EU has set a target date of 1 January 2014 for the unitary patent system to come into force. The long – awaited decision paves the way for establishing less expensive, simpler and more efficient patent protection for businesses, especially for small and medium-sized enterprises, in the EU.
Single patent litigation system
Currently, European patents are a bundle of national patents, enforced nationally. The European Commission alongside with agreement between the 25 member states will set up a court, the EU Unified Patent Court (UPC), which will have exclusive jurisdiction over cases related to these regulations.
The Unified Patent Court will have exclusive competence in respect of actions relating to the validity or infringement of a European unitary patent.
This will eliminate the risk of multiple patent lawsuits in different member states concerning the same patent, as well as the risk that court rulings on the same dispute might differ from one member state to another.
In addition, the single system will cut down patent litigation costs for businesses significantly. The European Commission has calculated that, with the single court, litigation expenses incurred by European companies can be reduced by approximately 289 million euro each year.
Obtaining a patent that would be valid in 13 member states today can cost up to 20 000 euro, and approximately 14 000 euro of that sum would be spent on translations alone. In comparison, it costs approximately 1 850 euro to obtain an American patent. The UPC will initially have three centers: Paris, London and Munich. London will have jurisdiction over litigation of patents relating to chemistry and the life sciences, including pharmaceuticals, biotechnology and medical devices, Munich will have jurisdiction over litigation of patents relating to mechanical engineering and Paris will take the remaining technologies. There will be an Appeal Court in Luxembourg.
The EU has yet to decide the exact relationship between the courts. This will become clearer as the courts are set up. The proposed structure would provide a new system of patent litigation in the EU by 1 April 2014.