In October, Italy dropped its opposition to the European Union’s Unitary Patent legislation and joined the 25 other countries that have agreed to the regulations set forth in EU Regulations 1257/2012 and 1260/2012, bringing the Unitary Patent system one step closer to realization.
The Unitary Patent system seeks to streamline and simplify the current patent system in Europe. Currently, each state issues and enforces its own patents within its jurisdiction, which means that patents must be obtained through each national patent office for Europe-wide protection. It is possible to obtain a “European Patent” from the European Patent Office (EPO), but this is simply a bundle of national patents, which must be approved by their respective national patent offices — and those nations’ courts are the only available forums for enforcement. This process is both lengthy and expensive, often costing around €36,000 to secure patent validation in all the EU member states, according to IP Watchdog. The Unitary Patent system would be a comprehensive and alternative process by which the EPO could issue patents that would be enforceable in all of the participating states. A specialized Unified Patent Court would handle litigation arising out of patent disputes. By creating this single system for the issuance and enforcement of patents, the Unitary Patent legislation hopes to increase efficiency and consistency in intellectual property rights across Europe.
Until recently, Italy had been one of the strongest opponents of the Unitary Patent. Along with Spain, it challenged the legislation in 2013 before the European Court of Justice, claiming that the new regulations would prove detrimental to the social and economic cohesion of the European Union. The challenge, however, proved unsuccessful, and Italy did not join Spain in its subsequent unsuccessful challenge that claimed that the Unitary Patent’s translation policies are discriminatory against those who do not speak one of the system’s three official languages (French, English, and German), into which all patents must be translated.