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EU Approves Unitary Patent Regulations

EPO patent examiner (European Patent Office)

EPO patent examiner (European Patent Office)

The European Parliament in Strasbourg, France approved draft regulations establishing a common patent system for 25 participating member counties of the European Union. The approved regulations create a unitary patent instrument and govern the language versions of the patent documents. However, EU members Italy and Spain are not taking part in the program.

The unitary patent, as the common patent is called, will provide a one-step process to acquire legal protection for inventions in EU member countries. The common patent will be administered and validated by the European Patent Office in Munich, and co-exist with patents awarded by individual countries in Europe. It is expected to provide a single intellectual property process for inventors in Europe that will remove the need and high cost for validation and translation in the participating countries.

Unitary patent documents will be published in the European Patent Office’s three official languages: English, French, and German. The European Patent Office will provide machine translations, provided by Google, into all other European languages by 2014. The European Patent Office says 14 machine-translated languages are now available.

A Unified Patent Court is also being established to enforce provisions and settle disputes over the unitary patent across Europe. The court wil have exclusive jurisdiction over unitary patents, to prevent venue shopping in national courts, with a Court of First Instance to hear initial cases, and a Court of Appeal in Luxembourg.

The patent court agreement must still be signed, which is scheduled for 18 February 2013, then ratified by at least 13 member states, including France, Germany and the U.K. The European Patent Office expects to begin awarding unitary patents in 2014.

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