23rd Oct 2016

EU breaks 30-year deadlock on joint patent

  • EU leaders agree to place the seat of the future European Patent Office in Paris - Spain and Italy continue to remain outside the agreement due to a language dispute (Photo: Argonne National Laboratory)

The final deadlock blocking a unified EU patent court was removed on Friday (29 June) when EU leaders agreed to place the seat in Paris.

“After thirty-years of negotiations we now have an agreement on the European patent,” Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt told reporters in Brussels.

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Leaders agreed to divide the court between London, Paris and Munich – breaking an eight-month impasse on the location issue.

The compromise hinged on UK Prime Minister David Cameron's insistence on excluding references to the European Court of Justice – a demand that his colleagues eventually agreed to.

Each city will be responsible for a specific set of topics with the main seat based in Paris.

Paris will also host the central division of the court of first instance, the president’s office and registry. London and Munich will each deal with around 30 percent of patent litigation cases.

Administration, research, engineering, and research efficiency patent cases will go to Munich. Pharmaceutical, life sciences, and ‘human necessity’ cases will go to London.

The decision will make it considerably cheaper for inventors to register their patents.

According to the European Commission, getting a patent through the current, fragmented system can cost €32,000 when patent protection is sought in all 27 member states.

Some €23,000 arises from translation fees alone. In the US, it costs €1,850 on average.

Additionally, judgements made in different EU member states on the same patent case are sometime in conflict.

"The simplification of the existing patent system will bring particular benefits to small and medium-sized enterprises and to innovators in universities and research centres," said Benoît Battistelli, president of the European Patent Office (EPO), in a statement.

The EU patent court is not expected to become operational before the end of the year.

A convention establishing the court must first be ratified by all member states with a risk of it first having to be put to a referendum in for example Denmark, due to opposition in parliament.


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