European Patent Edges Closer After Spanish and Italian Objections Swept Aside

The European wide single patent is a step closer this week, after the highest court in Europe threw out an attempt by Spain and Italy to prevent it from happening.

Online PR News – 19-April-2013 – London – The Unitary Patent, as it is called, will be a single patent which covers the whole of the EU. It is desired by many because it will allow single EU-wide patent enforcement, where currently this must be done country by country, and because it promises to significantly reduce the cost of obtaining rights across the EU. This could only be good news for British businesses.

However, both Spain and Italy object to the plans because neither Spanish nor Italian are to be used as principal languages in the system. Other member states pushed the legislation through using a procedure which allows the new law to apply in states that agree, leaving out those that do not. Spain and Italy both objected to the use of this particular procedure, but their action has now failed.

Their action to annul of Council Decision 2011/167/EU of 10 March 2011 which authorised the creation of the Unitary Patent, was dismissed on April 16 by the Court of Justice of the European Union.

However, although this battle may have been won by those who champion the Unitary Patent, which include the UK government, there are more hurdles to overcome. In particular, Spain has recently launched two more legal actions which have to be defeated. In addition, there is still high level disagreement over the way the single EU patent court will work.

Despite all the controversy, the Unitary Patent remains appealing in principal because it promises to bring down the cost of obtaining patent rights across the EU. In the current system an applicant who has had his patent application accepted by the European patent office must then validate his rights in all the European countries where he wants protection. The cost of doing this varies from country to country, but if many countries are required the cost can be as much as £20,000 or more. If the Unitary Patent becomes a reality then some of those countries could be covered by a single patent rather than by separate ones, and these validation costs could drop dramatically, or even disappear.

Jerry Bridge-Butler, a partner at Baron Warren Redfern, said: "Although the Unitary Patent is a good idea in principal, the battle to reach consensus on the details is obviously still raging. It will be interesting to see if the various member states of the EU will ever be able to settle their differences.

"While we at Baron Warren Redfern can see the obvious benefits of the system, we can also see problems in how it might have to be implemented. In particular, if Spain and Italy, and maybe others, refuse to sign up, then the Unitary Patent will end up covering just parts of the EU, and if so it just may not be an appealing option. This is doubly so if the Unitary Patent Court, which will deal with cases concerning Unitary Patents, proves to be expensive and problematic.

"We are obviously keeping a close eye on this, and if the Unitary Patent ever comes about, we will make sure our clients are fully up to speed on the benefits and drawbacks it represents."

Baron Warren Redfern is a firm of UK and European patent and trademark attorneys which practices in all areas of intellectual property including patents, trademarks and registered designs. It has offices in Hammersmith in London, and in Sevenoaks in Kent.

The patent attorneys have skills in a range of technical fields such as mechanical, electrical and electronic engineering, and the trade mark attorneys represent several major brand owners including Peugeot Citroen, Haribo, Kenwood, Valentino, Topps Tiles, the Bloodhound SSC Programme, Designers Guild, Orlebar Brown and Ally Capellino. BWR also has experience in UK and international IP enforcement, anti-counterfeiting and domain name disputes.