The European Parliament approves EU-wide unitary patent rules

Labour Party

Inventors across the European Union will soon be able to get a unitary patent. After over 30 years of talks, a new regime will cut the cost of an EU patent by up to 80%, making it more competitive compared to the US and Japan.

The European Parliament today approved the so-called “EU patent package” (unitary patent, language regime and unified patent court).

Intellectual property obviously does not stop at borders. Today’s vote is good news for EU economy and especially for European small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

As a member of the European Parliament Legal Affairs Committee, I know that people in China are telling us that we cannot have a single market without a unitary patent. With the new rules a lot of obstacles for SMEs will be overcome.

The new patent will be cheaper and more effective than current systems in protecting the inventions of individuals and firms. Any inventor will be able to apply to the European Patent Organisation (EPO, a non-EU body) for an EU unitary patent valid in all 25 EU member states taking part. Patents will be made available in English, French and German. Applications will have to be made in English, German or French. If made in another language, they will have to be accompanied by a translation into one of these three languages. Renewal fees, which account for a large share of total costs, will be set at a level that takes account of the special needs of small firms, so that they can benefit fully from lower costs.

The international agreement creating a unified patent court will enter into force on 1 January 2014 or after thirteen contracting states ratify it, provided that UK, France and Germany are among them. The other two acts would apply from 1 January 2014, or from the date when the international agreement enters into force, whichever is the latest. Spain and Italy are currently outside the new regime, but could decide to join in at any time.