Feeds

Squabbling EU heads force Council to split patent court in 3

Pouting politicians dig their heels in on unified system

The Power of One Brief: Top reasons to choose HP BladeSystem

The UK, France and Germany have removed the last obstacle to the formation of a unified European patent system by divvying up the court between them.

The three European powerhouses have been holding up the end of a process that's been going on for decades to try to bring all of Europe's patent laws and disputes under one system so companies only have to get one patent and only have to litigate once.

But European Council President Herman Van Rompuy said today that EU leaders had reached a decision at a council meeting.

"After 30 years of discussions on a European patent we reached an agreement on the last outstanding issue, the seat of the Unified Patent Court," he said in a canned statement shortly after announcing the agreement on Twitter.

The squabbling chiefs of state came to a compromise by breaking the central court down into three parts, one for each country, which sort of belies the word "central".

Paris gets the seat of the court, which will be called the Court of First Instance of the Unified Patent Court, and it will get the president of that court's office as well.

The Council then claimed that "given the highly specialised nature of patent litigation and the need to maintain high quality standards", it thought it might have two "thematic clusters" as well. In other words, London will hear cases on chemistry including pharmaceuticals and life sciences, while Munich gets mechanical engineering.

"The agreement reached today on the Unitary Patent will lead to considerably reduced costs for SMEs and give a boost to innovation, by providing an affordable, high quality patent in Europe, with a single specialised jurisdiction," the Council's findings said.

The European Commission has described a single patent system as one of the most achievable and immediate steps the EU can take to encourage innovation and reduce costs for businesses, but separate states have been unsure whether the system will be all good news.

Various British bodies have voiced their concerns about the system, including a committee of MPs which found that the new court would be "prohibitively expensive" for small UK businesses to use.

As recently as 20 June, the Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys (CIPA) in the UK was claiming that not only the UK but Sweden, Finland, Poland and Germany were concerned about the proposals as they stood. CIPA said then that the current draft of proposals needed amendment if they were going to benefit business in the UK and Europe.

While companies will only have to buy one patent and only have to litigate once, there will be big costs for small businesses who will have to journey to wherever the appropriate court is. There is also some lack of certainty on what everything is going to cost in the new system and which bits of which laws will be held onto.

For example, Germany has a so-called "bifurcated system" for trying patent cases, where it decides on the validity and the infringement in two different courts, but the UK doesn't do that. Naturally then, the UK wanted the unified system to be like its own and Germany wanted the same.

CIPA said in a statement that it was still unclear whether the new system would allow bifurcation or not, but the fact that lawsuits wouldn't be able to go to the Court of Justice was good news.

Critics of the system had been concerned that appeals would go to the Court of Justice, which is already overworked and has no experience of intellectual property, but today's agreement scraps that idea.

Chris Mercer, president of CIPA told The Register the agreement was "not as good as it should be and not as bad as it could be either".

"Three courts - that has its good bits and its bad bits," he said, "overall we would have preferred one court."

However, he added that the deal now was much better for the UK and Europe than it had been. ®

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications

More from The Register

next story
Arrr: Freetard-bothering Digital Economy Act tied up, thrown in the hold
Ministry of Fun confirms: Yes, we're busy doing nothing
ONE EMAIL costs mining company $300 MEEELION
Environmental activist walks free after hoax sent share price over a cliff
'Blow it up': Plods pop round for chat with Commonwealth Games tweeter
You'd better not be talking about the council's housing plans
Help yourself to anyone's photos FOR FREE, suggests UK.gov
Copyright law reforms will keep m'learned friends busy
Apple smacked with privacy sueball over Location Services
Class action launched on behalf of 100 million iPhone owners
UK government officially adopts Open Document Format
Microsoft insurgency fails, earns snarky remark from UK digital services head
You! Pirate! Stop pirating, or we shall admonish you politely. Repeatedly, if necessary
And we shall go about telling people you smell. No, not really
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable
Learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.