EU pushes through Unified Patent Court


Brussels has paved the way for a specialised European patent court to solve disputes in one instance and avoid multiple litigation cases in up to 28 different national courts.

The European Commission yesterday (29 July) announced the legal framework for Europe-wide patent protection by updating EU rules on the jurisdiction of courts and recognition of judgments, the so-called Brussels I Regulation.

The changes are intended to make it easier for companies and inventors to protect their patents. The Unified Patent Court will have specialised jurisdiction in patent disputes, with an aim to cut legal costs and speed up decisions in patent infringement cases.

“In the event of a dispute, companies will no longer have to launch actions before a number of courts in different countries,” said Vice-President Viviane Reding, the EU’s Justice Commissioner.

“Removing bureaucratic obstacles, extra costs and the legal uncertainty of having 28 different and often contradictory systems makes the single market more attractive. This is a very good example of how justice policies can stimulate growth.”

In February, after negotiations that lasted 40 years, the European leaders formally signed on a new unitary patent for 24 participating member states.

The current system made patent registration up to 60 times more expensive in Europe than in China. In the United States, in 2011, 224,000 patents were granted, in China 172,000 while in Europe only 62,000 European patents were delivered.

One reason cited is the prohibitive cost and complexity of obtaining patent protection throughout the EU’s single market.

At present, someone seeking to get Europe-wide protection for an invention has to validate the patents in all 28 EU member states. The patent holder may become involved in multiple litigation cases in different countries on the same dispute.

But this will change in the near future under the February agreement on the unitary patent package, which only Spain and Italy refused to join because of language concerns.

The proposal must be agreed by member states and by the European Parliament before becoming law.

The Commission urged EU countries to ratify the Unitary Patent Court Agreement as quickly as possible, and to complete accordingly the preparatory work required for the court to become operational, so that the first unitary patents can be granted.

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