The European Parliament adopted by a large majority, on 11 December, the Cyprus Presidency's compromise amendments to the legislative package setting up a unitary EU patent. The Competitiveness Council endorsed the amendments the day before. After the stalemate that followed last June's EU summit, these two successive green lights pave the way to authentically unitary patent protection, common to most of the EU.

"The road to creating the EU patent was long and rough, but the result justifies all the effort," welcomed Bernhard Rapkay (S&D, Germany), rapporteur on one of the patent package texts.

The unitary patent system is meant to do away with the fragmentation of the current process, which is very costly (11 times more than a patent in the United States) and a source of legal uncertainty due to the national handling of infringement cases, leading to different judgements in the same dispute. The new unitary patent will provide administrative simplification with a single application procedure in any EU language, automatic validity in all states that have accepted the agreement, lower costs (particularly translation costs) and greater legal certainty by centralising cases under a specific patent court system.

After a number of failures over translation arrangements (see table), the new legislative package consists of three texts: a draft regulation (co-decision) setting up the unitary patent, another establishing translation arrangements (Council regulation) and a draft intergovernmental agreement setting up the court system. The first was the subject of a legislative report by Rapkay (484 to 164, with 35 abstentions) and the second was addressed in a resolution by Raffaele Baldassarre (EPP, Italy) based on a consultation procedure (481 to 152, with 49 abstentions). Another non-legislative own-initiative report by Klaus-Heiner Lehne (EPP, Germany) concerned the intergovernmental agreement on the court system (483 to 161, with 38 abstentions).

Twenty-five member states will engage in enhanced cooperation on the two regulations, after Italy and Spain decided not to participate in the system due to their objections to the translation arrangements (see separate article on the advocate-general's conclusions).

The international agreement setting up the court system for the new unitary patent will be ratified by 26 member states, as Italy has expressed its intention to sign up to it. It will set up a system comprising a court of first instance...

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