Common EU patents can now be registered


More than 50 years since it was first proposed, and more than three decades since negotiations began, inventors will now be able to register a common EU patent, at comparatively low cost.

The new arrangements approved by the European Parliament in Strasbourg yesterday provide for a unitary patent, new regulations governing the use of the English, French and German languages to control and interpret patent law and the setting up of a new patent court to adjudicate on infringement disputes.

Patents can be centrally granted in the EU but they are then split into 27 national patents, each of which has to be approved in individual member states. This typically involves the applicant in translation costs amounting to about €36,000 on average.

Those registering a patent in all 27 member states could be faced with defending that patent in courts in 27 separate jurisdictions, a move MEPs said could potentially run into millions of euro in legal costs.

From January 2014, any inventor will be able to apply to a European patent organisation for an EU unitary patent valid in 25 member states. Italy and Spain are not taking part.

Patents will be made available in English, French and German. Applications in other languages must be translated. These costs are to be reimbursed for EU-based small and medium-sized enterprises, non-profit organisations, universities and other public research organisations.

Speaking after the vote, commissioner Michel Barnier said the move would make innovation more competitive compared to China and the United States, which already have unitary patent regimes.