On 11 December 2012, the necessary legislation for the implementation of the European Union patent was approved by the European Parliament.
The EU patent, expected to come into force at the start of 2014, offers additional option for patent protection in Europe on top of the existing national patent and European patent. A EU patent will also be administered by the European Patent Office (EPO) following the same patent prosecution as a European patent does up to the grant of patent. The difference is, while the existing European patent has to be validated in individual countries respectively in which the patent protection is sought, the future unitary patent will be automatically valid across the 25 participating EU member states.
The EU patent will be made available in English, French and German. Patent applications shall be made in any of the three official languages, and if made in another language, will have to be accompanied by a translation into one of the three languages.
According to the European Commission, EU patents, with simplified procedures and reduced translation requirements, will allow patentees to obtain patent protection at a substantially reduced cost compared with the currently available options.
A unified patent court, another important element of the new patent system, will enter into force upon the ratification by 13 contracting states, including France, the UK, and Germany – the first being the headquarters of the court, and the other two the locations for the satellite offices dealing with litigation of particular technical fields.
Spain and Italy are outside the new scheme, but may choose to join in at any time.