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European Union Moves Toward Unified Patent System

Intellectual Property: A less expensive and less cumbersome system could take effect as early as April 14, if ratified

by Glenn Hess
December 17, 2012 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 90, Issue 51

An easier, less costly patenting process in Europe is on the horizon pending ratification of a proposed common system by at least 13 European Union member states. The new patent system could take effect as early as April 2014.

Currently, businesses or individuals in Europe file for patent protection separately in each EU country. Thus, obtaining a patent that is valid across the EU now costs an average of $47,000, much of which goes to translating documents into multiple languages. With the new system, an EU patent may cost as little as $6,100, according to the European Commission.

“The significant lowering of the cost of patenting inventions in Europe will strongly benefit European enterprises, especially research centers and small and medium enterprises,” says European Patent Office (EPO) President Benoît Battistelli.

On Dec. 11, the European Parliament voted by a wide margin in favor of proposals to create a single patent valid in all but two of the EU’s 27 member nations. The move would establish accepted languages for patents and create a special court, with headquarters in Paris, for hearing patent disputes.

Spain and Italy have refused to join the new scheme, however, because of language concerns. Patent applications under the proposed new system will have to be submitted to EPO in English, French, or German.


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