Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Unified Patent Court: progress - if that's the right word

Reports last week suggested that the UK government had successfully brought the EU patent behemoth to a grinding halt. More careful examination of what happened shows otherwise. There will be a Unitary Patent Central Court, and there will also be two sector-specific courts, one for mechanical engineering and the other for chemistry and "human necessities". I must be missing something, but patent agents used to divide the world into mechanical, chemical and electronic, and the last of that trio seems to be missing.

Munich gets mechanical patents, London gets chemical and that other category, and Paris gets the central division. Maybe I am missing something, but a classic piece of EU horse-trading hardly justifies celebration, does it? The so-called Intellectual Property Office is clearly happy, saying in its highly uninformative press release:
The Prime Minister has today secured a great result for UK business at the European Council on single unitary patent valid in up to 25 European countries and secured London to be the host for the unified patent court. (If one had to say one city was the host, surely Paris would be the candidate? But it's quite wrong to say that there is one host.)
The Prime Minister, David Cameron said:
"A vital part of the Court covering the pharmaceutical and life sciences industries, in which Britain excels, will be coming to London. This brings millions of pounds and hundreds of jobs. (The litigation, or the industries? If the latter, which I imagine is the case, how is this remotely relevant to the situation of the sector court?)
"And I secured the changes to the nature of the patent system that businesses were demanding." (I don't think there is much agreement among businesses about what changes were needed - and it seems abundantly clear that the vastly increased expense of obtaining patent protection and litigating at the EU level is as far from the interests of small businesses as one can possibly get. See that FT article a link to which I posted earlier ...).
The heads of state have suggested the deletion from the Regulation of the provisions dealing with enhanced co-operation, a typical EU-euphemism  (a EUphemism, perhaps?) for a form of co-operation which does not include all Member States, which most people would consider to be a failure of co-operation rather than an enhanced version of it. It is a steamroller that nine or more Member States can drive, to the exclusion of the others. Of course, in the patents field (apparently, according to Wikipedia so this must be correct, divorce law is the other area in which enhanced co-operation is being used) Spain and Italy are the outsiders. The suggestion that enhanced co-operation should not be used here is a welcome development as far as most people in the patents world are concerned - as the PatLit blog observes:
... the constant criticism by the experts in the field (see e.g. Professor Krasser's opinion and Sir Robin Jacob's opinion) has been successful despite of the deplorable lack of transparency (see J. Pagenberg's letter here).

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