A Unitary Patent System for Europe

Representing one of the final major steps towards the establishment of a unitary patent system for Europe, the Unified Patent Court Agreement was signed by the majority of EU Member States in Brussels last week (19 February 2013).

What is the Unified Patent Court Agreement?
This Agreement constitutes a package which also includes two EU Regulations: unitary patent protection; and, associated translation arrangements (adopted in December 2012). The package provides the legal basis for the future European Unitary Patent system – a system that has been a hot topic of discussion at European level for over thirty years.

The Unified Patent
Unified PatentCurrent practice requires that for a business or individual to confer legal protection to their intellectual property, an application for patent protection must be submitted centrally, through the European Patent Office (EPO) in Munich. Once granted, the patent must be validated in each state in which protection is sought, a process that can involve significant costs due to translation and local validation fees.

Under the new rules, obtaining a European patent will be a cheaper, more efficient process, negating the need for translation and validation fees in multiple territories. The new regime will provide automatic unitary patent protection in all participating member states (25), cutting costs for EU firms, and individuals, and thereby boosting their competitiveness in the international market. It is predicted that when the new system is up to speed, an EU patent may cost just €4,725, compared to an average of €36,000 needed today, says the European Commission.

Renewal fees, which are expensive and often cause financial stress to SMEs (failure to pay these important annual fees leads to the lapse of patent protection), will now be set at a level that takes account of the special needs of small firms, so that they can benefit fully from lower costs.

This more affordable Europe-wide patent protection will encourage Irish and EU businesses to increase their level of innovation and it is particularly good news for SMEs and individuals who have limited resources. It will also make Europe a more attractive place for investors.

About the author: Theresa Heffernan is a Science Consultant at Life Science Recruitment. | Linkedin