EU Unitary Patent

The European Parliament has passed the EU unitary patent rules. The three packages passed today relate to the unitary patent, the language regime and the unified patent court. The new rules come into force on January 1, 2014 or after thirteen contracting states ratify it, provided that UK, France and Germany are among them.

As noted in my post during the summer, the unitary patent system would involve a single European patent rather than the current requirement to validate a patent granted by the European Patent Office in each country.

The announcement from the European Parliament includes details of the new regime:

Any inventor will be able to apply to the European Patent Organisation (EPO, a non-EU body) for an EU unitary patent valid in all 25 EU member states taking part. Patents will be made available in English, French and German. Applications will have to be made in English, German or French. If made in another language, they will have to be accompanied by a translation into one of these three languages.

Italy and Spain are not participating in the process due to the lack of Italian and Spanish in the selected languages. Albania, Bulgaria, Switzerland, Croatia, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Macedonia, Norway, Serbia, San Marino, Turkey are members of the current European Patent Convention but as non-EU members, are not part of the planned unitary European patent system.

The European Patent Office welcomed the news in a press release:

“The European Union is to be congratulated on this decision, which clears the way for the completion of the European patent system with a unitary patent and a Unified Patent Court, which we have been waiting for in Europe for 40 years,” said EPO President Benoît Battistelli.

An element of the package is the creation of a unified patent litigation system set up under an international convention establishing the Unified Patent Court (UPC), a specialised court with a first and an appeal instance with exclusive jurisdiction concerning infringement and validity questions related to unitary patents.