Monday, July 9, 2012

One Step Closer to a Unified EU Patent System

On June 29, 2012, EU leaders reached agreement on the location of a new European patent court. The court will be split between three seats, with London, Paris and Munich each handling a distinct function.

London and Munich will be the main venues for litigation, while the Paris offices will handle more administrative matters.  The London seat will handle specialized patent litigation in chemistry, pharmaceuticals and "human necessities" (a category that includes consumables, agriculture and clothing). Munich will handle mechanical engineering and court administration.  Disputes involving tech-based patents will be dealt with in either London or Munich depending on the kind of technology involved: actions relating to the internet or software are likely to be heard in London, actions involving engineering technology will be heard in Munich. 
In general, litigants generally will have no choice over where their proceedings are held. However, if a defendant is not EU-domiciled, parties may choose to bring the action before the central division in Paris, irrespective of the subject matter of the action.
The new patent court forms part of the set of reforms aimed at establishing a unified EU patent system and creating uniform patent protection across Europe. At present, the European Patent Office may grant a European patent, but this must be validated by the patent holder in every Member State where protection is desired. The resulting translation and administrative costs are frequently cost prohibitive. The proposed new patent regime is aimed at significantly reducing these costs.
The EU plans to proceed by way of an "enhanced co-operation" procedure, which allows a smaller number of Member States to take a policy forward without there being unanimous consent. At present, 25 out of 27 EU Member States are understood to be in favor of the patent reforms. Spain and Italy, however, have announced that they will not participate.
Next, the European Parliament will vote on the motion for a unified patent court and regulations on the common EU patent system. Sphere: Related Content