The next few days marks a critical juncture for the proposed unitary European patent system. The heads of France, Britain and Germany are set to meet in Brussels on June 29th to decide on the location of the European Patent Court. Currently, the top contenders for the court’s location are Paris, Munich and London, and each city is vigorously competing for that honor (and the monetary benefits that accompany it).
Failure to come to an agreement would likely be disastrous for the proposed patent system, which has never been closer to realization. As stated by Benoit Battistelli, president of the EPO, inability to reach a consensus on the location of the Patent Court would mean “we would have to start again almost from scratch, and it would probably take another 10, 12 years to find a solution.” Given that the cost of a European patent can be almost 15 times greater than that a US patent, this setback will be a huge disappointment for applicants worldwide.
A potential solution to this impasse being considered is to split the Patent Court among the 3 cities. Although this, in theory, will appease each city, critics say that the expense of administering a multi-location court could negate the chief goal of the unitary patent in the first place – cost savings for the patent holder.
So with bated breath, we await the outcome of the Brussels summit. Will it mark the birth of the unitary patent system in Europe, or will it be back to the drawing board?