Europe to harmonise IT patent applications

Europe to harmonise IT patent applications
EU takes first-step to Euro-wide patents

The European Council has decided that the European Court of Justice should not have jurisdiction over European Patents, and that an important part of the new central patent court should be located in London.

This decision marks the first significant step to a faster and easier to establish European-wide patent process and should make protecting a business's intellectual property much easier and cheaper.

The EU has been attempting to create a unified patent system across the countries of the EU almost since the EU existed. However businesses and experts have argued that while the harmonisation of the patent system is desirable, the last thing a business needs is to take a patent case to the European Court of Justice. The Court is already overburdened with cases and any decision could take years, it would be expensive to mount a case, and finally the court would be unlikely to understand the details of some of the cases, particularly in the field of high-tech IT and in fields such as life-science.

The European Commission claims a unified patent system would be up to 80 percent cheaper than the current system, under which businesses wishing to safeguard their intellectual property can apply to the European Patent Office for a patent but must then validate it separately in each country in which they wish to enjoy protection.

According to EU estimates, it costs about €30,000 (£24,155) to get national patents for all 27 member states, about 15 times the cost of a typical US patent.

Matthew Fell, CBI Director for Competitive Markets, said:

"Businesses will be reassured that the European Patent scheme will not fall under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice, because of the risks involved in a non-specialised court having a say in decisions over their intellectual property.

"Securing a high quality patent system was always the main priority for businesses, rather than squabbling over the location of the patent court. The move to split the European patent court between Paris, London and Munich seems a sensible compromise, and will draw on the UK's expertise in life sciences."

The one thing that we don't know is when all this legislation will come into effect. The EU has been arguing over patents for 40 years, let's hope the new Euro-wide patent happens a lot faster than that.