The European Parliament this week voted in support of a unified European patent system.
Following more than 30 years of debate, it has been decided that the introduction of a single patent court system, which is scheduled to go live at the beginning of 2014, will be beneficial for several reasons.
Firstly, patents will cost EU firms up to 80 per cent less than they do now, potentially down to as low as €4,725 (£3,800) from the current €36,000 (£29000).
Secondly, the procedure will become much simpler and more effective, as obtained patents will be protected in the same way across all 25 participating member states.
Finally, as a combination of the previous two points, it is hoped that an upsurge in European innovation will come of the change, bringing about enhanced competition with the likes of Japan and the US.
"Intellectual property must not stop at borders. The path towards the introduction of the EU patent was long and troubled, but ultimately it has been worth the effort," said Bernhard Rapkay, the lead Member of European Parliament on the regulation setting up a unitary patent protection system, "Today's vote is good news for EU economy and especially for European small and medium enterprises."
Patent applications will have to be submitted in either English, French or German, but the European Commission will reimburse the translation fees incurred by small and medium-sized enterprises, non-profit organisations, universities and public research firms.
Italy and Spain have opted out of the agreement but will be allowed to reconsider and join in at any time.
As things stand, such issues go through national justice systems but it has been announced that three courts will be established in London, Paris and Munich, with the exclusive purpose of tackling patent issues. More should be unveiled in due course.
"The international agreement ... will enter into force on 1 January 2014 or after thirteen contracting states ratify it, provided that UK, France and Germany are among them," says the European Parliament.
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