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Moving ahead with the unitary patent: the Select Committee holds its first meeting

25 March 2013

EPO President Benoît Battistelli

Benoît Battistelli
EPO President

After the adoption of the EU regulations on the unitary patent in December 2012 and the recent signing of the international agreement on the Unified Patent Court, a further milestone was reached last week with the convening of the so-called Select Committee. Representatives of the 25 member states participating in the unitary patent met with the EPO in Munich for the first time, and the European Commission as observer, to launch the Committee’s work.

That this first meeting could take place so soon after the signing of the agreement on the Court is in my view a clear sign of the political will of the participating countries to implement the unitary patent as soon as possible. The results were very positive. The Committee elected two highly qualified and committed participants in the unitary patent process – Jerôme Debrulle, head of the Belgian delegation, and Lubos Knoth, head of the Slovak delegation – to serve as its chair and vice-chair. It also initiated the discussion of its rules of procedure and launched an ambitious plan for its further work in the coming months.

One of the Select Committee’s main tasks will be to determine the appropriate level of fees for the unitary patent. Three constraints will have to be taken into account: first, the unitary patent must be attractive for the user community; second, it must be self-financed and budget-neutral for the EPO, since not all of the 38 EPO member states are involved; and third, some member states have expressed concerns about the expected amount of renewal fee income from the unitary patent, compared to the current situation. The EPO, which has been entrusted with granting and administering unitary patents, will provide the necessary expertise to facilitate efficient and balanced solutions.

In parallel, the member states will have to conduct their own national ratification procedures for the international agreement on the Unified Patent Court. Some of them have already taken the first steps towards this, and many are expected to ratify by the end of 2014. The Preparatory Committee for the Court will have to be very active in the coming months and address a number of complex issues, such as setting up a common IT system, to ensure that the Court can become operational in due time. The availability of a central jurisdiction, guaranteeing high-quality decisions, is crucial to the unitary patent system. Here, too, the EPO can contribute technical expertise to facilitate the creation of the court, for example, through the judicial training activities which the European Patent Academy has been organising for some years.

The participants in these preparatory meetings are fully aware of the challenges lying ahead and the work remaining to be done before the promised new instruments – the unitary patent and the Unified Patent Court – can be delivered to the users of the patent system in Europe. But the commitment to the process is strong, and those involved are determined to achieve a successful, sustainable outcome. I think we can confidently expect this to materialise in a reasonable time frame.

Benoît Battistelli
President

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Categories: European Union, International co-operation, Unitary patent

3 comments on Moving ahead with the unitary patent: the Select Committee holds its first meeting

  1. Fiolka says:

    Dear President Battistelli, your remarks regarding new system are very interesting, however there is one ambiguity that as it seems require some clarification. You said that one of the Select Committee’s main tasks will be to determine the appropriate level of fees for the unitary patent. Three constraints will have to be taken into account: first, the unitary patent must be attractive for the user community; second, it must be self-financed and budget-neutral for the EPO, since not all of the 38 EPO member states are involved; and third, some member states have expressed concerns about the expected amount of renewal fee income from the unitary patent, compared to the current situation.
    According to European Commission MEMO “Patent reform package – Frequently Asked Questions” published on 11 December 2012 r. after the transitional period (in which certain additional translations will be required), the cost to obtain a European Patent with unitary effect will be around 5 000 euro. This covers the procedural fees of the EPO as well as the cost of the translation of the claims to the two other procedural languages of the EPO. During the transitional period of maximum 12 years, the cost will be slightly higher, about 6 500 euro.
    Will the Select Committee be bound by the above EC statement? Taking into account the level of fees charged currently by EPO for granting European patent there is little place for maneuver for the Select Committee to determine the appropriate level of fees for the unitary patent, which would be in line with this EC statement.
    Unitary patent function, as every patent function is to encourage inventiveness through protecting of new ideas, not to generate income for member states to fulfill their budged gap. That is why claims of some member states for revenue from the new system should be strongly denied.

    • Blog team says:

      Dear Dr Fiolka,

      Thank you for your comment. The unitary patent is a European patent with unitary effect. Unitary effect is provided to the European patent after grant, ie the current application and examination procedure remains unchanged. This also applies for the fees which have to be paid until grant of the European patent. The pre-grant fees (including the fees for the translation of the patent claims into the two other languages of the EPO which are not the language of proceedings) for a European patent and a unitary patent will thus be the same: 5 000 EUR.

      In my blog I referred to the upcoming discussions in relation to the level of the renewal fees for a unitary patent. However, the FAQ of the European Commission which you mention refers to the fees up to the grant of the European patent which are the same irrespective of whether unitary effect is later provided to that patent or not.

      Yours sincerely,
      Benoît Battistelli

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