27 March 2017 - No comments »
Last week I was in Brussels to speak at a hearing on the Unitary Patent organised by the European Parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee (JURI). It was a pleasure to be able to return to speak to the members of the Committee to inform them on the state of play and also to provide an update on the latest developments at the EPO.
The initiative of Chairman Pavel Svoboda MEP to hold the hearing at this time indicates the importance of the Unitary Patent to the European institutions as we approach the entry into force of the Unified Patent Court. But it also indicates that this is a matter of interest to the MEP’s constituents from across the continent, whose businesses and enterprises are set to benefit from the Unitary Patent with reduced costs and, administration and enhanced legal certainty. At the hearing, I was therefore pleased to underline that the EPO is ready to deliver the first unitary patent. Over the years the Select Committee has worked tirelessly to ensure that the technical legal and operational preparations are all in place and the EPO is therefore ready.
Given the triggering of article 50, which is set for later this week, it was understandable that a point was raised in the hearing on the potential effect of Brexit for the Unitary Patent Package and, specifically, on its timing. Yet there are a number of solid reasons why we have cause to believe that the first unitary patent will indeed be granted at the end of this year.
Firstly, the Unified Patent Court’s Preparatory Committee is working to a timetable which will see entry into force in December. Indeed just a couple of weeks ago they met in The Hague for the last time before entering into the next stage of the project; the phase of provisional application. Secondly, there is a strong sense of support from both Member States and the users to see the entry into force as soon as possible.
In terms of Member States, Germany remains firmly on track to ratify. Just two weeks ago the necessary draft legislation was passed in the Bundestag and its progression through the Bundesrat is expected to be a formality. In addition, the UK has not signified anything other than its determination to progress with ratification. That was a point that was underlines to me personally by Jo Johnson, the UK minister for intellectual property, when I had a meeting with him in London just a couple of weeks ago. In keeping with his predecessor’s November 2016 commitment, the Minister explained that the UK remained on track to ratify this year.
Complimenting this political will is the backing of the User community, whose staunch support for the project has helped ensure its continuing momentum. Both the IP Federation, who I met at the same time in London, and Eurochambres, who I met in Brussels last week, represent large parts of European industry and patent applicants. In those meetings they expressed their strong desire to see the Unitary Patent in operation as soon as possible.
To hear our users speak with enthusiasm for this new form of patent protection in the EU comes at a particularly fitting time. Just a couple of days ago, Europe celebrated the sixtieth anniversary of the Treaty of Rome. That Treaty, its architects and its initial signatories foresaw the great benefits that could be derived from greater economic integration and cooperative action. Six decades later that same spirit is reflected in the Unitary Patent – a common project by Member States which has great potential to support European innovation, the economy and its competitiveness.