European patent: pros or cons?


After over 30 years of trying, Parliament and the Council of the European Union have agreed on how to create an EU-wide patent regime to protect inventions better, cut costs and boost competitiveness. So far only primary legislative acts on this question are approved and it should be followed by more legal acts, including ratification in each country, but it is already known that the unified patent court system will enter into force on 2014 (or after 13 contracting states, including UK, France and Germany, ratify it) and will complete the mechanism of the protection of the unified industrial property objects (trademarks, designs and patents) in the EU.In the official statements it is said that the new system will reduce  current patent costs up to 80 percent and it should improve the competitiveness of the EU companies vis-à-vis their counterparts in the US, China and Japan, where patents are much cheaper.

New European patent system

The new European patent system automatically will provide patent protection in all 25 EU member states and European companies will not have to file patent applications in all EU member states as it will be enough to file it in just one institution. According to the European Commission, the new unitary patent will cost around €4,725, which is significantly less than the protection of an invention in each EU country separately as it is now.

It is agreed that the unitary patent application will have to be filed with the European Patent Organization in English, German or French languages. All applications will be translated automatically into all official EU states’ languages so that all interested persons could obtain this information easily. Language regime for a long time was one of the major constraints that did not allow EU member states to agree on a unified patent system. For this reason, Italy and Spain do not participate in the agreement so far.

However, European Parliament ensured that translation costs will be fully reimbursed for EU-based small and medium-sized enterprises, natural persons, non-profit organizations, universities and public research organizations. Nevertheless, incorrect translation of the patent documents to the official languages that are used in EU can lead to more difficult patenting process, as well as may cause higher possibility of infringement, as the new applicants and users will not be able to review the accurate description of the invention.

Lithuanian, Latvian and Estonian persons could also be among these applicants and users. They also will need to translate their patent application to English, German or French languages that do not reduce the costs of obtaining protection.

Disputes on patents

Another important issue for Lithuanian, Latvian or Estonian persons is disputes on patents. It is agreed that such disputes will be heard in the courts established by EU member states and they do not necessarily have to be in that country.

This certainly will encourage higher costs of protection of their rights because the dispute will be heard in other country and it will be necessary to involve foreign specialists, translate the documents of the case and so on.

At the present moment, it is still difficult to indicate all the pluses and minuses of this system but it is obvious that, as seen from the perspective of the Baltic States, there could be some disadvantages. Hopefully, these will not constitute substantial obstacles to use the system and it will be as popular and effective in the Baltic States as the Community trade mark system.

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