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Historic agreement on the European unitary patent package

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"I am pleased that the European Parliament and the Member States have reached this long-awaited agreement. This is an historic agreement because it has taken us many decades to get here", Commissioner Michel Barnier said.

Since the 1960s, this project has been put forward, with successive failures. When I took up office, I said that I would not be the first Commissioner to work on the file but that I hoped to be the last.

The figures speak for themselves. In the United States, in 2011, 224 000 patents were granted, in China 172 000 while here in Europe only 62 000 European patents were delivered. One of the reasons for this difference is without a doubt the prohibitive cost and the complexity of obtaining patent protection throughout the single market. The new texts adopted open the way to simplified procedures and a reduction by one-seventh in the costs for our businesses of protecting their innovations in 25 EU countries. I hope that Spain and Italy will join this new regime as soon as possible, so that this protection will be valid in all 27 Member States.

With this far-reaching agreement, the European Parliament and the Council bring a decisive contribution to the implementation of the economic and growth agenda.

The unitary patent package should bring other results in the implementation of this agenda. The economy, business and consumers need them. And citizens are also waiting for proof, as today with the patent, of what we are doing together for economic progress and employment - that is for the benefit of all Europeans."


Background

Efforts to create a common patent applicable across all European countries have been made since the 1960s but for a number of reasons have never been successful.

In 2000 the European Commission made a proposal to create a Community Patent through a Regulation [now 'EU patent' under the Lisbon Treaty] . The aim was to provide for a single patent title applicable in all Member States. In 2003 Member States agreed a common political approach but failed to reach a final agreement, including over the details of the translation regime. Following a wide-scale consultation in 2006, the Commission produced a Communication in April 2007 which confirmed the commitment to the Community patent and re-launched negotiations in Member States.

In April 2011, the Commission tabled proposals on the creation of a European patent with unitary effect (or "unitary patent") in the framework of enhanced cooperation. The unitary patent will allow patent protection to be obtained for 25 Member States (all Member States except Italy and Spain) on the basis of a single application and without further administrative formalities, like validation and translation requirements, in the Member States. It will give inventors and companies access to the markets of 25 countries, i.e. 400 million customers at a vastly lower cost, with far fewer administrative hurdles to overcome.

The Unified Patent Court (UPC) will be created by an international agreement of the Member States and will be competent to handle disputes concerning both future unitary patents and current "classical" European patents. The UPC will be a single specialised patent court, with local and regional presence around the EU. Instead of parallel litigation in national courts, the parties will be able to get a swift and high quality decision for all states where the patent is valid.

The European Council in June decided on the location of the seat of the central division of the UPC, placing the seat of the UPC's Central Division in Paris. Specialised clusters of the UPC’s central division will also be set up - one in London, the other in Munich.

The agreement by the Council and European Parliament opens the way to the signature of the international agreement on the UPC. The first unitary patents could be granted in April 2014.

When in place, a one-stop shop for obtaining a patent having immediate effect in most parts of the EU's territory, combined with a single specialised patent court ensuring the highest review standards will be created.

See also MEMO/12/970

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