By: Roy Rosser
For Inventors, Entrepreneurs and companies doing business in Europe, Christmas arrived early. December 10thto be precise. Disguised as the Parliament of the European Union (EU), Santa turned up in Strasbourg and granted inventors and entrepreneurs three, forty year old wishes:
- A single patent, valid throughout Europe
- A single language for writing the application
- A single court deciding all European patent issues
All these were approved and are due to come into effect on January 1st, 2014, assuming at least 13 EU member countries ratify the decisions.
OK. Not quite. Nothing that has taken so long to be accomplished is ever going to be that straight forward.
Because the single language has to be one of English, French or German, only 25 of the 27 EU members are included. Spain and Italy are opting out, for the time being. They may join at a later date, once their linguistic pride has healed, or is outweighed by the opportunities of membership.
Even without Spain and Italy, the EU-25 is a large, affluent market place. It has a GDP of $14 trillion, second only to the US’s $15 trillion and ahead of the third biggest market, China at $7 trillion. The population is 400 million, well in excess of the US’s 315 million, though both lag China, 1.3 billion, and India, 1.2 billion. Now, this giant, wealthy market of the EU-25 is on the verge of being under one jurisdiction, so far as patents are concerned.
The existing European Patent Office (EPO) in Munich, although not an EU organization, is designated to examine and issue the new EU patents. Based on current EPO costs, an EU patent should run about $5000 plus legal fees. This compares favorably with a US patent, which will set you back about $3000 plus legal fees. And it’s a bargain compared with the estimated $50,000 plus legal fees currently needed to obtain patent coverage in the 25 EU countries that will be covered by the EU-patent – and that’s before the expense of maintaining and litigating each patent country by country, usually in the country’s own language, with the attendant translation costs.
The EU Patent Court, also set to come into being on January 1, 2014, will have four locations. The Court of First Appeals will be located in Paris, with sectional offices in London and Munich, while the Court of Appeals is headed for Luxembourg.
If all goes to plan, anyone who files a US provisional patent application on, or after, January 1st, 2013 will be able to convert to an EU patent application. And so will anyone who filed a PCT patent application on, or after, June 1st, 2011, assuming the EPO adheres to its 31 month deadline for converting a PCT application to a national stage application.
There are bound to be bumps, even on the short road left to final implementation, but, after 40 years, the way is finally clear for a single, cost effective, Europe-wide, patent. So rejoice. Celebrate the festive season, praise the Patron Saints of Common Sense, and have a Happy – and less costly – New Year.