On March 8, 2011, the Court of Justice of the European Union (EU) dealt a blow to prospects for a Europe-wide patent court, stating that the proposed unified patent court would not be compatible with EU law.

After EU Member States requested guidance relating to a proposed agreement to create a unified patent litigation system in Europe, the High Court issued an opinion (available online at http://curia.europa.eu/jurisp/cgi-bin/form.pl?lang=EN&Submit=rechercher&numaff=Avis%201/09) stating that such a court would "deprive courts of Member States of their powers in relation to the interpretation and application of European Union law ... and, consequently, would alter the essential character of the powers which the Treaties confer on ... the Member States and which are indispensable to the preservation of the very nature of European Union law."

In a press release announcing the opinion (available online at http://curia.europa.eu/jcms/upload/docs/application/pdf/2011-03/cp110017en.pdf), the High Court explained that its adverse decision means that no unified patent court can be implemented unless the agreement to do so is amended, or the applicable EU treaties are modified.

The European Commission is still looking for other ways (visit http://europa.eu/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=IP/11/269&format=HTML&aged=0&language=EN&guiLanguage=en) to reform European patent laws. For example, on March 10, 2011, 25 EU Member States agreed to develop plans for a unitary system for registering patents throughout Europe. The new system, if implemented, would do away with the current requirement to validate patents in each individual country in which patent coverage is desired.

This article is reprinted from Mr. Singer’s blog, IP Spotlight, with permission.