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EU approves creation of unitary patent system

The new system creates uncertainty, but could cut costs and streamline patent proceedings

European Parliament, Brussels, Belgium

After nearly 40 years of discussion, a unitary patent system for the European Union is set to become a reality. In December 2012, the European Parliament approved the legislation necessary to create a streamlined system for obtaining EU-wide patent protection and a complementary unified patent court system.

Twenty-five EU member states have agreed to take part in the new regime, with Spain and Italy currently opting out. On Feb. 19, 24 EU member states signed an international agreement setting up a unified patent court, with Spain, Bulgaria and Poland opting out of this single, specialized patent jurisdiction. Many of the details of the new unitary patent and unified patent court are yet to be determined, and the system will go into effect in 2014 at the earliest, although it’s more than likely to take a few additional years before it goes live.

It will have exclusive jurisdiction over civil litigation related to infringement and validity for the unitary patents and the classical European patents. The court system will consist of a Court of First Instance (comprising local/regional divisions and a central division with sites in Paris, London and Munich) and a Court of Appeal (sited in Luxembourg), and it will refer questions of EU law to the European Court of Justice. 


Associate Editor

Melissa Maleske

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