The European Union Council of Ministers approved a political agreement in view of the creation of unitary patent system valid on the whole territory of the EU, the subject being under discussion since more than 30 years.
The European Parliament validated the institutional agreement by a vote in plenary session on December 11th. Two regulations concerning the unitary patent and the applicable modalities with regard to translation should be adopted by the Council before the end of 2012. Italy and Spain have chosen not to participate to this reinforced cooperation because of the applicable modalities with regard to translation.
With the unitary patent, the filing of a unique application will be necessary to protect a patent in all the countries of the EU, contrary to the present situation where the patent must be validated and maintained in force in each member state of the EU in which the applicant wishes to benefit from protection.
The agreement on the unified patent court is the third element of this package of measures, to which only Spain does not participate. The unified patent court will ensure a uniform application of patent law in all the member states participating to the reinforced cooperation. It will enable to avoid the multiplication of legal actions concerning a same patent in different member states.
The unified patent court will comprise a court of first instance, a court of appeals and a registrar service. The court of first instance will have a ‘central’ decentralised division with a seat in Paris (having jurisdiction for electricity and IT cases) and two sections in London (having jurisdiction for chemical and pharmaceutical cases) and Munich (having jurisdiction for mechanical matters) as well as several local and regional divisions. The court of appeals would have its seat in Luxembourg. The agreement should be open for signature on February 18th 2013.
To entry into force, the agreement will have to be ratified by at least 13 member states through their national parliaments. We can expect to see the first registration of a European patent with unitary effect during the spring 2014.