The European Union’s implementing of a centralized, uniform system for all participating EU member nations was left with a bit of ambiguity following uncertainty about the Brexit and Unitary Patent relationship. Now, however, the UK has ratified the Unitary Patent System. This system along with a Unified Patent Court are scheduled to begin functioning late this year, and are expected to facilitate more efficient patent filing in EU member countries.
*This article serves as an update about the unitary patent – Brexit relationship outlined in our previous post: “Brexit and Patents: Will The Split Affect The Unitary Patent or Translation Requirements?”
More Certainty While Preparing for the Unitary Patent
The unitary patent – Brexit relationship brought with it uncertainty; however, despite initial hesitation the UK decided that it will remain part of the Unitary Patent System.
Like in the United States where patents are filed and managed by a single judicial system, the EU Patent Office will be the authority solely responsible for patent applications. A single application will suffice to acquire the patent, register a business, and provide access to a single litigation system.
The creation of a European Patent Office (EPO) will help reduce existing problems for patents valid in different countries, thereby increasing efficiency and cutting costs.
Thirteen member states must ratify the agreement before it can be implemented. It is expected that, along with the UK, that number will be reached in late fall. The EPO will be in charge of all documentation, application fees, and issuing of patents. Participating EU members will have access to this information, and will split application fees between participating countries.
How Close Is The EU To A Unified System?
Although the system is not yet fully functional, the transition period is expected to continue smoothly now that any question about the UK’s participation has been resolved.
The EU is working towards resolving potential issues with countries participating in the unified system, and they are working towards an agreement with those who have not yet signed on as participating member nations.
The Preparatory Committee’s chairman, Alexander Ramsay, has said that the period of experimentation and testing of the system could potentially start this fall. This would indicate that the system may in fact be up and running by the first trimester of 2018.
That being said, several challenges remain regarding the complications involved in bringing together different legal systems, languages, and cultures among the EU member countries, as well as their acceptance of this new system.
How The Unitary Patent Affects Translation
As we’ve long known, registering a patent will now be a matter of submitting the application in one of three approved official languages of the EPO. This means European patent translation services will be limited to English, French or German. Once a translation of the patent application in one of these required languages is submitted, the patent will then be valid across all EU participating countries.
In some cases the application process has been further simplified by limiting the need for translation services to only relevant parts of the patent, unless otherwise requested by either the patent office or a third party.
For patent disputes, the involved parties may come to an agreement as to which language will be used. In such cases, they may need to absorb costs related to professional translation and interpreting services in their native languages.
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