European Parliament Approves EU Unitary Patent Rules
Since the early 1970s, several different governing instances of the European Community have tried to implement a true unitary patent system, referred to as a Community Patent Convention (CPC) patent. Under this unitary system, much like in the United States, a single patent application is filed and, once approved, becomes enforceable in all the Member States.
Unable to reach this level of cohesion, the alternative has been to use the Convention on the Grant of European Patents, commonly known as the European Patent Convention (EPC). Under the EPC, a single patent application is filed, prosecuted and allowed, but it only serves to create a group of essentially independent, nationally enforceable, nationally revocable patents that are subject to central revocation.
An EPC application is filed before the European Patent Office in any one of the official languages of member countries. At some point, once the European patent is granted in a single proceeding, the applicant designates those contracting states in which protection is desired and must incur the cost of translation of the application into the language of each of the designated states. These independent national designations are later “confirmed” during a subsequent step of limited prosecution by each state. Ultimately, multiple patents issue in multiple languages. The step of national designation is made even more complex if the European patent is filed from an initial application filed under the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT).
On December 11, 2012, the European Parliament approved the necessary European Union legislation to finally create the unitary European Union Patent (EU patent, EC patent or COMPAT patent) with a true unitary effect. The entry into force, after 13 state ratifications, is planned, at the earliest, on January 1, 2014. We expect the EU patent to come into force between 2015 and 2017.
The EU patent no longer requires state designation and will be valid in all the Member States. A common patent court called the Unified Patent Court (UPC) will be constituted and will have exclusive jurisdiction over infringement and revocation proceedings.
Currently the cost of obtaining an EPC patent in all 27 EU countries is approximately $42,900, mainly due to translation costs. The cost of the CPC patent in the same 27 EU countries will be closer to $10,000, a significant savings in cost. Further, there will be no need for individual management of each patent or for individual payment of renewal fees. We expect prosecution of the CPC to be relatively similar to the prosecution of the EPC.