A press release last week explained how, after over 30 years of trying, the European Parliament and the Council are close to agreeing on how to create an EU-wide patent regime to protect inventions better, cut costs and boost competitiveness.
The European patent with unitary effect relies upon three separate pieces of legislation (unitary patent, language regime and unified patent court), drawn up via three different procedures.
The first piece of legislation is a regulation setting up a unitary patent protection system. The regime for translating EU patents comes under the consultation procedure (i.e. Parliament is consulted). Finally, a unified patent court is to be created through an international agreement among EU member states participating in the procedure. Parliament negotiated the three acts as a package, so as to give its input on all issues.
The international agreement creating a unified patent court would enter into force on 1 January 2014 or after thirteen contracting states ratify it, provided that UK, France and Germany are among them. The other two acts would apply from 1 January 2014, or from the date when the international agreement enters into force, whichever is the latest. The European Commission would report on how the new regime is working three years after it takes effect.
There would be a 12-year trial period during which European patent holders could choose whether or not to use the new system.
The package as a whole is being dealt with via the “enhanced cooperation procedure”, which allows groups of Member States to move ahead together, even where others do not agree. Spain and Italy have so far opted out of the unitary patent package, but could join in the decision-making process at any time. This procedure was used to break a deadlock, mainly due to language issues, that lasted over thirty years.
You can find the press release here.