International News I: Cooperation in the Creation of Unitary Patent Protection

The European patent was one of the topics on the agenda at the latest EuropaBio National Associations Council (NAC) conference at the beginning of April. On 13 April 2011, the European Commission presented two draft sets of regulations on organising a joint patent in terms of enhanced cooperation. The aim is to reduce the very high patent costs in Europe by up to 80%. The draft regulations contain rules on the prerequisites for the granting of unitary patent protection, the legal effects of this protection, and the translation regulations to be followed. In accordance with the drafts, a European patent with a unitary effect in 25 member states would cost €680 following the end of a transition period, during which the costs would still be less than €2,500. Those who wish to register a patent currently have to do at the European Patent Office (EPO). They must then have the patent validated separately in the countries where they want to have patent protection. This procedure currently involves high translation and administration costs (around €32,000 for patent protection in all 27 member states of the EU, with translation costs amounting to some €23,000). In comparison, a US patent costs the equivalent of €1,850 on average.

The required unanimous resolution for an EU-wide regulation was not reached due to the stance taken by Spain and Italy, which insisted on translation into their respective national languages. As a result, “enhanced cooperation” was established in accordance with Article 329 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. According to the EU Treaty and the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, “enhanced cooperation” can be used as a last resort when agreement cannot be reached within a reasonable period among the Union as a whole and if at least nine member states participate in it. Other member states can join before or at any point after “enhanced cooperation” has been established. 25 member states have declared that they are in favour of “enhanced cooperation” on patent protection to date.

EuropaBio’s Intellectual Property Council, in which several BIO Deutschland members are involved, will take part in further discussions with the EPO. BIO Deutschland’s Working Group on Licences and Technical Contracts also deals with this topic.

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