On 18 November 2013 the Council of Europe provided an update on the implementation of the European unitary patent, which will allow inventors to apply for a single patent with harmonised rights across all participating Member States (i.e. all other than Spain and Italy). The “European Patent with unitary effect” is being implemented by Regulation 1257/2012 (the “Regulation”).

The Regulation imposed an obligation on participating Member States to set up a Select Committee to progress the unitary patent’s implementation. The Select Committee first met in March 2013, and has begun the process of drafting rules which will govern the unitary patent’s administration (for example, renewal fees, registration etc.). Whilst the rules have yet to be finalised or adopted, the Select Committee has also started to address the budgetary implications of the unitary patent, and it is expected that discussions on these issues will start in early 2014.

It is anticipated that the unitary patent will enter into operation in early 2015, and that the Select Committee will have completed its work by June 2014. The Select Committee’s work is in parallel to that of a ‘Preparatory Committee’ (dealing with implementation of the Unified Patent Court (“UPC”) and the EPO, which is expanding the use of language translation by machine.

The Preparatory Committee is working on the legal framework, finances, computer systems, facilities and human resources of the UPC. Establishing the UPC, which will be based in London, Paris and Munich, with an appellate Court in Luxembourg will require court facilities, sophisticated IT systems able to handle e-filing and a patent registry. Procedural rules also have to developed, and issues like ADR systems and court fees have to be addressed. Also essential will be the presence of specialist patent judges, and a pre-selection process for applicants was launched in September 2013.

The Preparatory Committee aims to implement the UPC in early 2015, a deadline which the Council describes as an “ambitious but realistic” target for completion.

The Council’s report can be found on the Europa website by clicking here.