EU inventors will soon be able to get a unitary patent at last. After over 30 years of talks, a new regime will cut the cost of an EU patent by up to 80%, making it more competitive vis-à-vis the US and Japan. Costs for small firms have been cut and the overall regime tailored to their needs, in a compromise deal with the Council endorsed by Parliament on Tuesday.

Any inventor will be able to apply to the European Patent Organisation (EPO, a non-EU body) for an EU unitary patent valid in all 25 EU member states taking part. Spain and Italy are currently outside the new regime, but could decide to join in at any time.

Patents will be made available in English, French and German. Applications will have to be made in English, German or French. If made in another language, they will have to be accompanied by a translation into one of these three languages.

The Parliament ensured that translation costs would be fully reimbursed for EU-based small and medium-sized enterprises, non-profit organisations, universities and public research organisations. It also ensured that renewal fees, which account for a large share of total costs, would be set at a level that takes account of the special needs of small firms, so that they can fully benefit from lower costs.

The date of application of the two regulations on the creation of unitary patent protection is conditional on the entry into force of the Agreement on the Unified Patent Court.

Thus, for a unitary patent to be issued in early 2014, it would be necessary that, by November 2013, at least 13 Member States (including the three States with the highest number of European patents in force, i.e. France, Germany and the United Kingdom) ratify the draft agreement on the Unified Patent Court. The Agreement between the Member States is expected to be signed in early 2013. This will be the starting point of the ratification process in the Member States.

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