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Battistelli: it’s now or never for unitary patent

The creation of a unitary patent and centralised, specialised IP court is “an economic imperative” and it is time to complete the European patent system, EPO President Benoît Battistelli said this week

"With Europe's fragmented market in innovation and IP, we are at risk of losing out to the world's other superpowers. It is time that we set aside our differences. We must focus on our needs as Europeans, and re-shape the European patent system accordingly," he said at Managing IP's International Patent Forum in London.

Battistelli's speech came as EU member states debate the final elements of a proposal that would create a unitary patent right, examined by the EPO but covering 25 EU member states.

Officially, the only substantial element of the proposal remaining to be agreed is the location of the central division of the proposed court. France, Germany and the UK have said they want to resolve this matter between them by June this year.

However, other matters of detail including fees and rules of procedure for the court system remain to be confirmed. And, in recent months, there have been growing industry concerns about the already agreed elements of the unitary patent plan, including the structure of the court and the possibility of referrals to the Court of Justice of the EU.

But Battistelli said firmly: "The momentum built up in 2011 has to be sustained." He added that the EPO has little influence in the negotiations, as they are a political matter, but did say that the Office will be ready to grant unitary patents "from day one".

Under the proposal, the EPO will also take on a new role as the central registry for unitary patents.

Battistelli urged the politicians: "Whatever will be the decision on the location of the Court, please take it quickly. A great deal of energy has been engaged to obtain the current result which is positive or at least acceptable for a lot of us."

Given the political discussions on the unitary patent, it is unlikely there will be any breakthrough before the results of the French presidential elections are known next month.

The EU Competitiveness Council will meet next on May 30 and 31 and that should provide a clearer indication of the status of negotiations.

Battistelli acknowledged that there are concerns that the proposals are not perfect, but said: "It is always possible to improve but the better is the enemy of the good".

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