Unitary Patent

by Morag Peberdy and Christina Helden

When the legislative package the EU Unitary Patent was agreed last December, many speculated that the 1 January 2014 date for the implementation of the EU’s Unitary Patent was overly ambitious.  The publication of the UK’s new Intellectual Property Bill (the “Bill”) on 10 May 2013 now gives real substance to this viewpoint.  The provisions of the Bill indicate that the UK will not ratify the Agreement on a Unified Patent Court (the “Agreement”), one of the key legislative instruments required for the Unitary Patent’s implementation, until April or May 2015.  Since the UK must ratify the Agreement before it can be implemented anywhere in Europe, it appears that the timetable has been derailed.  Given that a number of tech companies, including Nokia and BAE Systems, advocated vocally against the Unitary Patent in its current form, this may be welcome news to some.
Continue Reading The UK Parliamentary Process Delays the Implementation of the Unitary Patent

After more than 40 years of discussions, the European Parliament today voted in favour of the “EU patent package,” hot on the heels of the European Council’s approval yesterday.  The EU patent package will create a Unitary EU Patent i.e. a uniform patent which will have equal effect and will be granted, transferred and enforced in a unitary way in most of Europe.  Unitary EU Patents will be granted through the existing European Patent Office, but a new court system will be set up to enforce these patents.

The Unitary EU Patent will, in time, replace the current system of European Patents which – after grant – operate as independent national patents in up to 38 countries.

Today’s vote represents a major political breakthrough, and it is now highly likely that the package will be implemented, although the international agreement creating a unified patent court still requires ratification by individual European countries in order to come into effect.  The EU patent package will enter into force on 1 January 2014 or after 13 European countries have ratified it, whichever is the latest.  The 13 ratifying countries must include the UK, France and Germany.  Spain and Italy have so far decided not to participate in the EU patent package, but are free to opt back in at any time.  The European Commission anticipates that the European Patent Office will grant the first Unitary EU Patent in 2014.  
Continue Reading A Unitary Patent for Europe is Finally Approved

Shortly before today’s vote in the European Parliament on the Unitary EU Patent , Advocate General Bot recommended that the Court of Justice of the European Union (“CJEU”) dismiss the actions brought by Spain and Italy objecting to the EU Patent package.

The Spanish and Italians did not support the compromise that the rest of Europe reached on the language regime for the Unitary EU Patent, which would allow Unitary EU Patents to be filed in English, French or German and granted without the need for translations into other European languages.

In order to progress the Unitary EU Patent despite the Spanish and Italian opposition and break the deadlock which had lasted for over 30 years, on March 10, 2011 the European Council decided to deal with the Unitary EU Patent package via the “enhanced cooperation procedure”.  This procedure allows groups of member states to move ahead together, without the involvement of all 27 EU member states.  It is intended as a last resort, and has only been used once before in European legislative history.
Continue Reading Blow to the Spanish and Italian Challenge to the Unitary EU Patent