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Good news for European inventors

EU inventors will soon be able to get a unitary patent at last. After over 30 years of talks, a new regime will cut the cost of an EU patent by up to 80%, making it more competitive compared to the US and Japan. MEPs cut costs for small firms and tailored the regime to their needs, in a compromise deal with the Council endorsed by Parliament on Tuesday 11 December.

In three separate voting sessions, MEPs approved the so-called "EU patent package" (unitary patent, language regime and unified patent court).

Liam Aylward MEP said "Given that it currently costs an average of €36,000 to patent a product across the EU, the measures supported today by MEPs will be welcome news to European SMEs and innovators.  The new patent will cut costs for EU firms, increase their competitiveness and reduce the administrative burden.  The recommendation that renewal fees be set at a level that takes account of the needs of smaller firms will also be welcome news to the thousands of SMEs across the EU."

Sean Kelly MEP welcomed the agreement and described it as a "dynamic compromise". "The proof of the pudding will be in the eating. If it improves competitiveness and increases the number of patents registered it will be a success. "

Cheaper and more effective protection

The new patent will be cheaper and more effective than current systems in protecting the inventions of individuals and firms. The new regime will provide automatic unitary patent protection in all 25 participating member states, cutting cuts costs for EU firms and hence boosting their competitiveness. When the new system is up to speed, an EU patent may cost just €4,725, compared to an average of €36,000 needed today, says the European Commission.

How to apply for the new patent?

Any inventor will be able to apply to the European Patent Organisation (EPO, a non-EU body) for an EU unitary patent valid in all 25 EU member states taking part. Patents will be made available in English, French and German. Applications will have to be made in English, German or French. If made in another language, they will have to be accompanied by a translation into one of these three languages.

How Parliament helped to reduce costs

Parliament ensured that translation costs will be fully reimbursed for EU-based small and medium-sized enterprises, non-profit organisations, universities and public research organisations.

It also ensured that renewal fees, which account for a large share of total costs, will be set at a level that takes account of the special needs of small firms, so that they can benefit fully from lower costs.

Entry into force

The international agreement creating a unified patent court will enter into force on 1 January 2014 or after thirteen contracting states ratify it, provided that UK, France and Germany are among them. The other two acts would apply from 1 January 2014, or from the date when the international agreement enters into force, whichever is the latest. Spain and Italy are currently outside the new regime, but could decide to join in at any time.

The Rapkay report was approved by 484 votes to 164 with 35 abstentions.

The Baldassarre resolution was approved by 481 votes to 152 with 49 abstentions.

The Lehne report was approved by 483 votes to 161, with 38 abstentions.

For further details on how the system will work, please see our Q&A

Sean Kelly MEP speaking on the European Patent