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Why the Commission is rattled over the Unitary Patent

Emma Barraclough

There is lots happening in Munich this week, as member state representatives gather on Bob-van-Benthem-Platz for a meeting of the Administrative Council on Wednesday. But while much of the focus on the EPO centres on industrial relations and governance issues, there are important Unitary Patent developments taking place too

Today members of the select committee of the Admin Council tasked with setting application and renewal fees for the new patent begin their latest two-day meeting.

It is their first since the EPO floated two fee proposals earlier this month. Its so-called TOP4 and TOP5 proposals are based on, respectively, the cost of validating European patents in the most popular four or five member states.

The decision about how much it will cost to apply for and maintain a Unitary Patent was always going to be contentious, since those setting the levels have to reconcile a number of interests – including their own.

Industry has long-championed low fees (no surprise there). But now it seems that IP owners’ unwillingness to use the new system if the figures don’t stack up in their favour has got European Commission officials rattled.

On Friday we reported that senior members of DG Internal Market had shared with the EPO “in no uncertain terms” its view that the level of renewal fees is critical for the success of the system. (You can read more about what officials told us here).

After spending more than 40 years trying to get a pan-European patent right in place, it is easy to understand the bureaucrats’ frustration that it might be stymied from the start by member states keen to maximise their own financial share. The Commission enjoys merely observer status at the select committee meetings. But it is intriguing to think about what its representatives will be saying to member states during the coffee breaks.

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