Patents form an important part of many businesses. They’re the basis of technology products, the chemical framework for pharmaceuticals and are often the subject of extensive legal battles in the courts.
Now the European Parliament is pushing through draft patent regulations which will attempt to form a single unitary patent for the EU.
The aim is to cut the cost of an EU patent and make the system, which Europe currently has, more competitive than the likes of Japan and the US.
The new unitary framework will co-exist with national patents and the current ‘European patent’ to ensure that businesses involved in the process in Europe are better served. It will also allow them to cut the cost of gaining a European patent by as much as 80 per cent.
The high cost of patents relates to the number of translations that must be achieved. New regulation will mean that English, German or French will suffice without it having to be converted to native tongues for each country the patent takes effect in.
While the European Union no doubt opens up new markets to ambitious businesses, the ability to protect ideas becomes complicated and costly when different laws collide.
Chris Mercer, president of the Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys, says that the success of the agreements, if they are ratified, will depend on whether all signatories have acted to ‘harmonise’ laws on patent infringement.
‘If there is no harmonisation,’ he says, ‘we will end up with a system that does not serve business well.’
Mercer would like the UK government to remain steadfast in its commitment to the process in order to ensure that the ultimate patent regulation ticks all the necessary boxes.
‘In spite of the politicians’ glowing words in the Competitiveness Council meeting and in the parliamentary discussion, these agreements could still end up making the patent system more complicated and expensive for its users,’ he explains.
The unitary patent court will come into effect on January 1, 2014, or when at least thirteen member states ratify the proposal. It remains to be seen whether the agreed upon framework will appease all parties involved.