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European Union Unitary Patent: France ratifies the Agreement on a Unified Patent Court

28/03/2014

I- Current European Patent system

Since 1978, the patent protection system in Europe has provided companies and inventors with the possibility to have their patent applications examined in a centralized procedure by the European Patent Office (EPO).

Said office, based in Munich and The Hague, works at the applicant's request in either English, French or German. It grants European Patents having effect in most countries of the continent, whether they are European Union Members or not.

A European Patent has the same legal effects as a National Patent in each country it is granted for and kept in force by its owner.

Since 2008, the European Patent language regime has been simplified with several countries, such as France, Germany and the United Kingdom, waiving the requirement to file a translation of the text of the European Patent granted in their national language.

 

II- New System: European Patent with unitary effect

In December 2012, an Agreement was reached to reform the legal framework on granted European Patents. This Agreement will offer the owners of European Patents the possibility to request the unitary protection for all Members States of the European Union (with the exception of Spain and Italy).

 

      1- The European Patent with unitary effect

The European Patent with unitary effect, providing uniform protection in 26 Members States, will generate major economic benefits as well as a reduction of administrative tasks.

 

      2- Procedure for obtaining the unitary effect

The unitary effect request shall be filed before the EPO within one month from the publication date of the mention of grant of the European Patent.

Owners of a European Patent granted after the entry into force of the new regulations will have the possibility not to request the unitary effect, if they only seek protection in selected EU Member States.

 

      3- A Unified Patent Court

A Unified Patent Court is also created to simplify the litigation procedure and reduce its costs.

This court will be composed of judges technically qualified in the major fields of technology. The Court of First Instance will have its seat in Paris, with thematic sections in Paris (electricity, physics, constructions, transportation, textiles, paper), London (pharmaceuticals, cosmetics) and Munich (mechanical engineering). The Court of Appeal will have its seat in Luxembourg.

 

      4- Infringement actions

The owner of a European Patent with unitary effect will be able, by bringing one single action before the Unified Court, to obtain a decision applicable in all Members States (with the exception of Spain).

Infringement actions based on a European Patent for which the unitary effect has not been requested shall be brought before the Unified Patent Court.

During a transitional period of seven years, the owner of a European Patent with no unitary effect may nevertheless still bring legal actions before national courts.

 

III- Entry into force

The Agreement will enter into force after ratification by 13 Member States, including Germany, France and the United Kingdom. The Unitary Patent framework will most likely be operational by the end of 2015.

 

We naturally remain at your entire disposal to further discuss the new options offered by this breakthrough concerning the protection of inventions in Europe and advise you accordingly on the strategies to adopt.