Europe Reaches Agreement On Unitary Patent

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After years of at times embarrassing political and procedural wrangling, members of the European Union today agreed to create a single patent system for 25 EU member states, including a unified patent court split between Paris, Munich and London. The decision also has a copyright element.

“The agreement reached today on the Unitary Patent will lead to considerably reduced costs for SMEs and give a boost to innovation, by providing an affordable, high quality patent in Europe, with a single specialised jurisdiction,” the decision from the European Council states. The Council is the body of representatives of each of the 27 EU governments.

The decision is available here [pdf].

An infringement case can be filed in any of the three courts but each will have specialisations. “Given the highly specialised nature of patent litigation and the need to maintain high quality standards,” the decision said, “thematic clusters will be created in two sections of the Central Division, one in London (chemistry, including pharmaceuticals, classification C, human necessities, classification A), the other in Munich (mechanical engineering, classification F).”

[Update:] there is a clause in the decision that may become controversial, according to some sources. It states: “We suggest that Articles 6 to 8 of the Regulation implementing enhanced cooperation in the area of the creation of unitary patent protection to be adopted by the Council and the European Parliament be deleted.”

This clause would effectively remove patent matters from the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice, sources said, and may run into resistance when the decision goes before Parliament, which could come soon.

Spain and Italy chose not to join the agreement in protest of the absence of their languages.

As rumoured earlier this week, the agreement is to place the central division of the patent court in Paris, with offices in Munich and London, thereby defusing a fierce territorial battle. This breakthrough should lead to the adoption of a unitary patent for the EU, taking the place of national procedures. The European Patent Office in Munich will grant the unitary patent and centrally administer it.

The EPO issued a press release hailing the “historic” achievement, available here.


Today’s decision also contains a copyright action. It urges advancement on the EU Digital Single Market by 2015, stating: “It is also crucial to boost demand for the roll-out of high-speed internet, modernise Europe’s copyright regime and facilitate licensing, while ensuring a high level of protection of intellectual property rights and
taking into account cultural diversity.”

[Update:] The decision elicited a positive industry reaction. Association for Competitive Technology President Jonathan Zuck issued a statement: “Europe’s innovation capacity is a product of the quality of its intellectual property system. While details are still to be ironed out, today’s agreement is doubtlessly a step forward and will help generate innovation and growth in the European Union. Any agreement that get us closer to reduced patenting expense and complexity is welcome and we can only hope that soon a European patent is a reality in every Member State. It has been a long and rocky road and entrepreneurs across the Union can’t wait to see the end of it and the common good prevailing.”

William New may be reached at

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  1. Manfred says

    A said day of the EU that the member states do not follow the community method but leave it to member states and the EPO to stifle EU developments. What comes out of the quarrals is an unacceptable solution without Article 6 an 8. The Unbitary Patent is a bad deal. It is showing that the EPO press release is only available in english.

    The European Parliament cannot accept that member states cut out Article 6-8.

  2. says

    “will lead to considerably reduced costs for SMEs and give a boost to innovation, by providing an affordable, high quality patent in Europe, with a single specialised jurisdiction”. This is the best part of this article.


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