European patent boost for UK entrepreneurs

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Businesses set to benefit from cheaper, simplified regulations.

A single European patent looks increasingly likely after ministers reached important agreements on the detail of a unitary patent at the Competitiveness Council in Luxembourg this week.

For the first time in 60 years, ministers have agreed on the languages regime for the patent — the number of translations which applicants need to file to get their patent. Agreements were also reached on the technical details of the patent itself.

As a result, it will be easier and cheaper to register patents, with far fewer translations required than at present.

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Currently, businesses seeking Europe-wide patent protection can either apply for national patents in each country separately or go to the European Patent Office (EPO) for a European Patent under the European Patent Convention (EPC). These European Patents are bundles of national patents which must be litigated in each state and, in most cases, translated into each national language.

The availability of a single patent for the European market will be an incentive for innovation and will enhance the competitiveness of European businesses, said UK Intellectual Property Minister Baroness Wilcox.

“The creation of a single European patent and patent court is crucial for UK industry. We support a European patent system which gives real benefits for business, consumers and the economy. It is vital to offer businesses the same access to patent protection in their home market of Europe, as competitors in the US, China and Japan enjoy in theirs,” she said.

Baroness Wilcox said a unitary patent and court system would save businesses time and money, whether they are patent holders or those seeking to challenge patents.

“The savings to UK business are likely to be around £20 million per year in translations costs alone,” she said.

It is believed that the agreement of the new regulations, which should be adopted later this year, will radically reduce the cost of translating patents in Europe by up to 80%.

It will also allow any company or individual to protect their designs through a single European patent valid in 25 countries.

A recent independent review of intellectual property and growth found that establishing a unitary patent would remove IP barriers between EU countries and could increase UK national income by over £2 billion a year by 2020.

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