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EU unitary patent – a historic breakthrough

Helle Thorning-Schmidt, the Prime Minister of Denmark,
at the Press conference on 29 June 2012
© European Union


The European Council on 29 June concluded the negotiations on the EU's future unitary patent system. The long-awaited decision paves the way for establishing less expensive, simpler and more efficient patent protection for businesses, especially for small and medium-sized enterprises, in the EU.

"After thirty years of negotiations, we now have an agreement on the European patent. The European businesses will now experience – when we have it finalised – that instead of applying for patent in 27 member states, they can now apply in one place. And that will be good for growth and business in Europe", said Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt.

The leaders had to solve the last outstanding issue: the seat of the Unified Patent Court's Central Division of the Court of First Instance. They agreed that it would be based in Paris and have two specialised sections, one in London and the other in Munich.

The office of the Court's President will also be based in Paris. The first President of the Court should come from the member state hosting the Court's Central Division.

Single patent litigation system

The Unified Patent Court will have exclusive competence in respect of actions relating to the validity or infringement of a European unitary patent.

This will eliminate the risk of multiple patent lawsuits in different member states concerning the same patent, as well as the risk that court rulings on the same dispute might differ from one member state to another.

In addition, the single system will bring down patent litigation costs for businesses significantly. The European Commission has calculated that, with the single court, litigation expenses incurred by European companies can be reduced by approximately 289 million euro each year.

Simplified validation and linguistic regime

The Unified Patent Court is part of the future unitary patent system in the EU. The other two elements are: a regulation on the unitary patent itself and a regulation on translation arrangements for that patent. The member states and the European Parliament agreed on the two regulations in December 2011.

The future unitary patent would be valid in all participating member states and be obtained with a single application. The use of languages would draw inspiration from the current system managed by the European Patent Office, where the working languages are English, French and German, and this will cut down the costs of acquiring patent protection.

Obtaining a patent that would be valid in 13 member states today can cost up to 20 000 euro, and approximately 14 000 euro of that sum would be spent on translations alone. In comparison, it costs approximately 1 850 euro to obtain an American patent.

Next steps

The European Parliament will vote on the unitary patent "package" in July 2012. The Council will adopt the two regulations shortly thereafter.

The member states will sign the Unified Patent Court agreement in the second half of 2012. After it is ratified by a sufficient number of member states (at least 13), it will enter into force. This is expected to happen in early 2014. The two regulations will enter into force at the same time.


More information:
European Council conclusions (pdf)
Press conference