Unitary European Patents A Reality?

Author:Mr Gregory Lavorgna
Profession:Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP

Previous Alerts have reported on the efforts being made to establish a unitary patent protection and a unified patent litigation system in Europe. The EU moved one more step closer to that goal on June 29, 2012 with the adopting of an agreement that establishes a unified system of patent litigation. Years of negotiation resulted in a decision on where the central division of the European Unified Patent Court will be located.

Helle Thorning-Schmidt, the prime minister of Denmark, made the announcement at a summit of the European Union, and was quoted as remarking, "After 30 years of negotiations we have now an agreement on a European patent." Having a unified European patent means that companies can obtain a patent that is valid throughout the EU in one proceeding, instead of having to validate granted EU applications in 27 different member countries. Denmark played a key role in brokering the compromise, which came on the last day of a six-month EU presidency by Denmark. The Danish presidency had pressed very hard in the past six months to get an agreement on the patent issue during its term, and Denmark hailed the agreement as a "tangible success."

In what is obviously the result of compromise, the European Unified Patent Court will be composed of three divisions. Paris will get the "central division," which will be the headquarters, and will process about 60 percent of the workload. An office in London will handle patents for chemistry, pharmaceuticals and life sciences, and "human necessities," which is expected to account for about 30 percent of the workload. The remainder of the workload will be handled by an office in Munich, which will handle mechanical engineering patents and also handle administrative work for patent appeals. All cases not handled by London or Munich will go to Paris, and the first president of the court will be French. There will be an appeals court in Luxembourg.

The compromise on the location of the patent court's central division was proposed as a measure to achieve a decision during the summit. Deciding where the central division should be located was the last outstanding issue that had to be solved to come to an agreement on the unitary patent system.

The Unified Patent Court will have exclusive jurisdiction in actions relating to the validity or infringement of a European unitary patent. The goal of the unified system is to eliminate the possibility of multiple patent lawsuits concerning the same patent...

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