Simplifying European Patents

Getting a patent is getting easier in Europe.

Long in the works, a unified European patent is now ready to launch, most likely in mid-2019.

The result will be a considerably more streamlined patent-registration process than companies currently face. Under the new system, applicants will get a single European patent that is recognized across the 25 participating EU member states

The complexity and high costs of the current patent system place European companies at a considerable competitive disadvantage, according to the European Commission. A patent valid in one country costs around €36,000 ($40,458), of which €23,000 covers the cost of translation and administration. Under the new structure, this will reduce up to 80%, with a single annual renewal fee to be paid directly to the European Patent Office. The cost of the annual fee for a “unitary patent” for 10 years—the current average duration of a European patent—would be less than €5,000.

Applications for patent protection will be taken only in English, French and German. The registration of brands will include not only the traditional parameters, but also scents, sounds and holograms, among other characteristics.

Courts with oversight over the European unified patent system will be based in London, Paris and Munich; although the German Constitutional Court must evaluate its constitutionality and the London Court could move to Milan for pharmaceutical patents.

The proposed Unified Patent Court will have power to take action on patent infringement, counterfeiting, ascertainment of invalidity and revocation, as well as related provisional and precautionary measures and application counterclaims. Damage claims related to supplementary protection certificates issued on the basis of a European patent will also be under the court’s purview.

One potential challenge facing EU companies under the new system is an increase in requests for protection coming from non-European countries. Additionally, it could mean further burdens for companies in countries that don’t routinely use English, French or German, which will face greater translation costs.