News from Abroad: EU Patent Is Finally Born

by McDonnell Boehnen Hulbert & Berghoff LLP

    [author: Devanand Crease]

European Union (EU) FlagAfter a gestation period of nearly 40 years, and amid the Eurozone crisis, the final form of the unitary European Union (EU) patent and unified patent litigation system was brought in existence on 29 June 2012.  It was a troubled labour with much wrangling between the parent member states with some countries left out in the cold (Italy and Spain), and others obstinately digging their heels in and demanding concessions (United Kingdom).  In the end, a working system for the grant and enforcement of a unitary EU patent was agreed upon and some key highlights are:

• The system will likely come into force in 2014-15 and pre-grant and opposition procedure will be substantially similar to the current EPO patent process.

• After grant of the EU patent, the previous financially burdensome validation process has been removed with official languages only of English, French, and German.

• Whilst infringement proceedings can be brought in any member state in the first instance (except Italy and Spain), the primary technical court dealing with appeals and all issues of patent validity will be the so-called Central Division.  The Central Division will be headquartered in Paris, with specialist sections domiciled in London (for chemistry, including pharmaceuticals, and life sciences) and in Munich (for mechanical engineering).

• A single renewal fee will be paid covering the entire EU (except Spain and Italy).

The new EU Patent system will place patents on a similar footing with other pan-EU unitary IP rights such as trade marks and designs.  There are likely to be a few further hiccups ahead, though, as the new agreement must be ratified by at least 13 member states before becoming law across the EU (again excepting Italy and Spain).

The legislation has had many critics over the past few months, particularly those concerned that the German style of dividing infringement and validity proceedings into separate cases tried in separate courts (termed 'bifurcation') would become commonplace across all of Europe.  However, the classical EU compromise agreement that has been presented seems to mitigate some aspects of this, at least for the time-being.  However, simply defaulting to an EU patent at the earliest opportunity may not be the best situation for non-EU applicants as the benefits of enforcing a unitary right should also be weighed against the drawbacks of central revocation.

It is certain, though, that this new patent right will be a powerful game changer in the European market and its effects cannot be ignored.  The UK was particularly pleased with the outcome with its key life science industry benefitting from the location of the Central Division for chemical and life sciences litigation in London.  This is also of major interest to US and Canadian based pharma companies as the UK is the only major common-law nation in Europe.

The next few years may prove to be volatile as patent owners learn to deal with the new system and discover whether it delivers improved competitiveness on the global stage for the EU.

Dr. Crease is a Partner at Keltie LLP in London, UK.

EU Member StatesGraphic of member states of the European Union (above) by Ssolbergj, from the Wikipedia Commons under the Creative Commons license.


DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© McDonnell Boehnen Hulbert & Berghoff LLP | Attorney Advertising

Written by:

McDonnell Boehnen Hulbert & Berghoff LLP

McDonnell Boehnen Hulbert & Berghoff LLP on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Custom Email Digest
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.


JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at:

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.