On Monday November 19, the Member States participating in the enhanced cooperation reached unanimous agreement on the Unitary Patent Package at the meeting of the Committee of Permanent Representatives (Coreper I). Later in the same evening, an extraordinary meeting of the Committee on Legal Affairs of the European Parliament (JURI), took place in Strasbourg where MEPs expressed overwhelming support for the proposal agreed by Member States. Given these positive developments, there is wide spread optimism that the first European unitary patent could be introduced early 2014.
The agreement reached within Coreper and JURI yesterday was based on a shared wish to boost the global competitiveness of the EU innovation industry and to demonstrate the capacity to deliver instruments at the European level which can play a decisive role in helping the European economy especially in times of economic crisis. The effect of the final adoption of the unitary patent package would mean a unitary patent title common to EU Member States less expensive and simpler. The new system ensures more efficient patent protection for businesses, especially Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs), in the EU.
The negotiations on the patents package reached a crucial point in June’s European Council where for the sake of compromise upon the seat of the central division of the Unified Patent Court (in Paris, London and Munich), the Heads of States and Governments decided to delete Articles 6-8 from the Patent Regulation which was an agreed text with the European Parliament at first reading agreement in December 2011. The challenge of Cyprus Presidency was to regain the trust of the co-legislator and achieve a compromise text which ensures that the overall patents package remains a legally sound and solid text, complying with EU acquis.
Positive signals from Parliament
Following the endorsement of the Patents Package by Coreper, the JURI-committee discussed the state of play of the unitary patent at an extraordinary meeting that took place in Strasbourg last night. At this meeting, Mr. George Zodiates, Chair of Coreper I, presented the Council compromise proposal for a new Article – Article 5 in the Regulation of Unitary Patent Protection, where the patent holder has the right to prevent third parties from acts against which the patent provides protection. The aforesaid protection is ensured throughout the territories of the Member States. At the same time in order to have homogeneous patent case law, deleted Articles 6-8 have been moved to the Unified Patent Court Agreement (part of the patents package).
The majority of speakers expressed overwhelming support for the proposal. The three rapporteurs Mr. Bernhard Rapkay (S&D, DE), Mr. Klaus-Henier Lehne (EPP, DE) and Raffaele Baldassarre (EPP, IT) expressed their support for the Council proposal and considered that the Parliament's "red lines" (compatibility of the proposal with Article 118 of the Treaty, respect for the role of the Court of Justice and of the Parliament) had been respected. European Commissioner for Internal Market and Services, Mr. Michel Barnier, also supported the compromise and appealed for 35 years of negotiation to be brought to a close.
According to the JURI Chair Mr. Lehne, the European Parliament would need to check the final text of the package before it could move to a formal endorsement. Since the agreement is due to be adopted by the Competitiveness Council on December 10, the EP could vote on the Regulations - subject to any amendments from the political groups at its December plenary session.
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