The European Union has agreed upon a single patent system for the 25 nations that make up its membership.
The single patent process has been discussed for many years, but was met with disagreement among the member states; however, with the latest votes, the last hurdle will be the EU Council and the European Parliament approving the single patent. Furthermore, officials say that this “is expected soon.”
"The European Union is to be congratulated on this decision, which clears the way for the completion of the European patent system with a unitary patent and a Unified Patent Court, which we have been waiting for in Europe for 40 years," European Patent Office (EPO) President Benoit Battistelli said in an EPO statement.
"Cutting the costs of patenting inventions in Europe will strongly benefit European enterprises, especially research centers and SMEs. The vision of the founding fathers of the EPO to equip the European economy with a truly supranational patent system can now become a reality, strengthening Europe's competitiveness."
The EPO will administer unitary patents for the region, and there will also be a single patent litigation system with a Unified Patent Court (UPC). The new patent court will be located in Paris, with other offices in London and Munich, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The UPC agreement will likely be signed on Feb. 18, 2013 and will become effective once 13 EU members have agreed to it, including France, Germany and the United Kingdom. By 2014, it should be in place.
The single patent system for Europe will lead to lower costs and a less cumbersome patent process, and will make the region “more attractive for innovation and investors and bring it on a par with its competitors in Asia and the US,” according to the EPO statement.
Additionally, inventors will be able to file a single application with the EPO. The unified patent court will eliminate the risk of different legal outcomes in different member nations, The Journal said.
"The new system will stimulate research, development and investment in innovation helping to boost growth in the EU," the European Commission added in a statement.
Meanwhile, Spain and Italy oppose the move, because their national languages are not included in paperwork, according to The BBC. Instead, the documents will be in one of three languages: English, French or German.
Another drawback to the new system is the possibility of increased patent litigation similar to what is seen in the United States, the BBC said.
"MEPs voted in favor of a legally uncertain system that does not provide any checks and balances against threats to innovation such as software patents," Jeanne Tadeusz, a spokeswoman for April, a French software advocacy group, was quoted by The BBC.
"The European Patent Office will gain amazing powers, even though its governance has been highly criticized, especially with regard to its practice of granting software patents, against the letter and the spirit of European patent law."
The path to approving the single patent and single patent court took many years. It was in 2006 that intellectual property judges came up with a plan how an IP European court would function, according to TMCnet.
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Edited by Allison Boccamazzo