The European Parliament has given its approval for the introduction of a one-size-fits-all unified patent system.
The new system is on course for introduction in 2014 after almost four years of deliberation and planning.
Delay in establishing the system was caused by disagreement among the European Parliament’s Council of Ministers. However, the Council gave its approval to the plan to harmonise the patent system earlier this week and the European Parliament (EP) yesterday approved the move.
The EP was forced to use the “Enhanced Co-operation” legislative pathway to push the patent plans through. This is used when unanimity cannot be achieved. This was required in this case as the new patent legislation is opposed by Italy and Spain. Advocate General Bot issued his opinion that the legal challenge to the unified patent system issued by Italy and Spain was unfounded.
Yesterday’s developments follow on from previous agreement about the location of a Unified Patent Court (UPC) in France. Due to the specialist nature of patent litigation, two further courts will be established in London and Munich, handling chemistry and life science cases, and engineering and physics cases respectively.
Nick Wallin, partner and patent attorney at Withers & Rogers, said that the overwhelming vote of support for the unified patent system from the EP will prompt “full steam ahead” for its implementation and pacify those who have been waiting many years for the change.
“Our present understanding of the timetable is that the draft regulation should be adopted by the European Parliament by 21st December 2012 and a treaty establishing the UPC should be signed on 18th February 2013, prior to the new system being introduced sometime in 2014,” he explained.
It is hoped the new unified patent system will encourage European innovation and prompt an upswing in the number of patents filed in Europe – catching the region up with countries like Japan and the USA.
Mr Wallin said: “Under the new system, a single unitary European patent will give innovators around the world a very valuable form of commercial protection over a marketplace of around 500 million people.”