European Patent Edges Closer After Spanish and Italian Objections Swept Aside
The European wide single patent is a step closer this week, after the highest court in Europe threw out an
attempt by Spain and Italy to prevent it from happening.
Online PR News – 19-April-2013 – The Unitary Patent, as it is called, will be a single patent which covers the
whole of the EU. It is desired by many because it will allow single EU-wide patent enforcement, where
currently this must be done country by country, and because it promises to significantly reduce the cost of
obtaining rights across the EU. This could only be good news for British businesses.
However, both Spain and Italy object to the plans because neither Spanish nor Italian are to be used as
principal languages in the system. Other member states pushed the legislation through using a procedure
which allows the new law to apply in states that agree, leaving out those that do not. Spain and Italy both
objected to the use of this particular procedure, but their action has now failed.
Their action to annul of Council Decision 2011/167/EU of 10 March 2011 which authorised the creation of the
Unitary Patent, was dismissed on April 16 by the Court of Justice of the European Union.
However, although this battle may have been won by those who champion the Unitary Patent, which include
the UK government, there are more hurdles to overcome. In particular, Spain has recently launched two more
legal actions which have to be defeated. In addition, there is still high level disagreement over the way the
single EU patent court will work.
Despite all the controversy, the Unitary Patent remains appealing in principal because it promises to bring
down the cost of obtaining patent rights across the EU. In the current system an applicant who has had his
patent application accepted by the European patent office must then validate his rights in all the European
countries where he wants protection. The cost of doing this varies from country to country, but if many
countries are required the cost can be as much as £20,000 or more. If the Unitary Patent becomes a reality
then some of those countries could be covered by a single patent rather than by separate ones, and these
validation costs could drop dramatically, or even disappear.
Jerry Bridge-Butler, a partner at Baron Warren Redfern, said: "Although the Unitary Patent is a good idea in
principal, the battle to reach consensus on the details is obviously still raging. It will be interesting to see if the
various member states of the EU will ever be able to settle their differences.
"While we at Baron Warren Redfern can see the obvious benefits of the system, we can also see problems in
how it might have to be implemented. In particular, if Spain and Italy, and maybe others, refuse to sign up,
then the Unitary Patent will end up covering just parts of the EU, and if so it just may not be an appealing
option. This is doubly so if the Unitary Patent Court, which will deal with cases concerning Unitary Patents,
proves to be expensive and problematic.
"We are obviously keeping a close eye on this, and if the Unitary Patent ever comes about, we will make sure
our clients are fully up to speed on the benefits and drawbacks it represents."