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A legal obstruction to a unitary European patent system

Date: 09 March 2011
Author: Eddie Walker
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Last month we discussed progress that had been made towards the creation of a single EU-wide patent.  Under the current system, a European patent, although granted centrally, becomes a bundle of national patents that must be maintained and enforced separately in each designated European country.  This can lead to substantial patent costs in Europe, particularly when a European patent is to be litigated in the national courts of each designated country.  The European Parliament had recently allowed a group of EU countries to proceed with laws to create a single, centrally enforceable, EU-wide patent, despite opposition from Italy and Spain based on language requirements.
 
Yesterday, a significant stumbling block was reached, however, with the European Court of Justice considering the proposals, particularly in relation to the setting up of a central European and Community Patents Court, incompatible with European Union Law.
 
Moves are afoot to press ahead with the unified approach to patent protection in Europe, despite this setback.  However, without agreement on a central forum for litigation, it is difficult to see how the unified system will take shape.
 
If you have any questions or require any assistance in relation to this topic, please email Eddie Walker.
 
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