Earlier this week, an historic agreement was signed creating a new European patents court in London. The focus of the new London-based Unified Patent Court will be pharmaceutical and life sciences patents. Yesterday’s development brings the introduction of the new EU Unitary Patent a step closer. Together, the Unitary Patent, and Unified Patent Court, will help those businesses looking to obtain and enforce patent protection across Europe to make significant cost savings.
European Patent Protection Now
Currently, businesses looking to obtain patent protection across Europe must apply for national patents in each of the European territories in which they want patent protection. Alternatively, they can apply for a European Patent. A European Patent requires just a single application to be made to the European Patent Office (EPO) in Munich, designating those territories in which protection is sought. However, what results is a bundle of national patent rights not a truly unitary single European patent. Whilst an application via the EPO relieves the administrative burden of making multiple patent applications, the costs involved can still be high. Accordingly, it is considerably more expensive to obtain patent protection in Europe than it is in economically competing jurisdictions, such as the US and China.
Further costs are incurred when a business looks to enforce its patent rights. As the European patent does not have unitary effect across Europe, a patent dispute is essentially territorial, so the national law of the relevant European country or countries will apply. There can, therefore, be no one central European court with jurisdiction. In addition, injunctions which have effect across Europe are not widely available. Costs can spiral if multiple national actions are needed or if a well-financed litigant ‘forum shops’, essentially forcing the other party into court action in a foreign jurisdiction.
The new Unitary Patent will be a single right giving patent protection across Europe. As only one patent application will need to be made, and the translation requirements will be much reduced, businesses will benefit from major cost savings (estimated by the UK government to be up to £20,000 per patent in translation costs alone). A central court, the Unified Patent Court, will hear disputes. The court will be based in Paris, with two specialist divisions located in London (dealing with pharmaceutical and life sciences) and Munich (dealing with engineering). The first Unitary Patents are expected to be granted during 2014 and the new courts will be up and running in 2015. This new patent regime will create a cheaper and more convenient "one-stop shop" for businesses looking to protect their business ideas in Europe.
Squire Sanders’ Intellectual Property Practice Group is advising clients now on how they can make the most of the Unitary Patent regime. For more information on how your business could benefit, please contact us.