Collated by MOHAMMAD RUBAIYAT RAHMAN
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European Union lawmakers voted (overwhelmingly) in Strasbourg in favour of a Europe-wide patent scheme on 11 December. Thereby, the European Union sealed an agreement for the creation of a single patent system across 25 countries of the bloc’s 27 member states. Thence, the new patent regime covers all EU nations with the exception of Italy and Spain. These two countries backed out of the agreement over a decision to confine the number of languages within the ambit of English, French and German. However, it does not mean that Italy and Spain can’t garner the benefits of the ‘Single EU Patent System’ when it matures into law. When the system will be in place and Italy and Spain can join at a later date if they decide to.
In April 2011, the European Commission proposed a “regulation (unitary patent regulation) implementing enhanced cooperation in the area of the creation of unitary patent protection” that is passed on vote in this month (December 11) by the European Parliament and the Council of European Union. The regulation is the last hope, to set up a common patent platform for all Member States of the European Union (EU).
The vote of approval has placed the regulation on the following highways:
1. Proposal will be handed to the Committee of Permanent Representatives in the European Union (Coreper);
2. If agreed on, it will then go to the council of ministers on the third week December, before being signed off in February 2013; and
3. Before it becomes official, each country will have to ratify it into their national law.
Its aim is to boost competitiveness and innovation as it reduces red tape for inventors and brings patent costs in line with other economies like the U.S. and Japan. It is pertinent to mention here that the current system makes the process 18 times more expensive than in the United States and 60 times more than in China, because patents have to be registered separately in individual EU countries – up to 27 times to cover the whole European Union.
The new patent system should come into force in 2014, and a new unified patent court will be set up in Paris with some specialist services located in London and Munich. This newly unified court will also end the need to defend the patent in various national courts with the risk of different outcomes in different countries.
It will thus mean an inventor can file a single application with the European Patent Office with no need to validate it one by one in each country, a process that involves complex validation requirements and stacks up huge translation costs. The new unified court will also end the need to defend the patent in various national courts with the risk of different outcomes in different countries.
However, Nokia Corporation along with defense, aerospace, and security giant BAE Systems PLC have criticized this common patent system by expressing their apprehension that it would pave more intensive patent troll activity. The two corporate behemoths termed the newly passed system ‘seriously flawed’ and specifically tagged the newly introduced Art 5a as a thicket of greater legal uncertainty and more opportunity for forum shopping which might facilitate abusive behavior by patent holders. Examples of such abusive behavior include: enforcement by patent holders of invalid or weak patents, using threats of pan-European injunctions to extract money from legitimate European businesses that make and sell products in Europe.The Regulation, as it stands, will drive European businesses to locate their infrastructure, such as factories and warehouses, outside the jurisdiction and discourage inward investment from companies domiciled outside the EU. This will harm, according to their apprehension, employment and economies of participating Member States.