To improve the competitiveness of European companies, especially small firms, a common patent system is needed. A significant step forward has now been achieved towards the creation of a unitary patent title: enhanced cooperation was established to allow EU member countries which have reached agreement to allow for the unitary patent to become automatically valid throughout the territory of the participating member states.
‘Enhanced cooperation’ is a procedure enshrined in the EU treaty that allows a group of countries to adopt new common rules when an EU-wide agreement cannot be reached.
The main obstacle to agreeing by unanimity on the creation of an EU patent is the number of languages in which the future unitary patent will be valid. The language regime for the future unitary patent system would be based on the language regime of the European Patent Office (EPO), the official languages of which are English, French and German. All countries except for Italy and Spain have agreed to this solution.
A unitary title would provide equal protection throughout the EU while contributing to the fight against counterfeiting and the copying of patented products.
The existing European patent requires validation of the granted patent separately in every EPO member state, as well as a full translation of the patent in the official language(s) of that member country. The future unitary patent would be automatically valid throughout the territory of the EU member countries participating in the enhanced cooperation in the (EPO) language in which it has been granted.
The enhanced cooperation would remain open to non-participating countries, and access to the unitary patent on the territory of participating countries would also be available to businesses from non-participating member countries.