In July 2000, the European Commission proposed the creation of a Community patent to allow inventors to obtain a single patent legally valid throughout the European Union. A single Community patent would considerably reduce the burden on businesses and the cost of obtaining a patent, thus making Europe more competitive and encouraging innovation.
The benefits of a Community patent system would be:
- simplified protection of inventions throughout the territory of the Union thanks to a single procedure and the issuing of patents by a division of the European Patent Office in Munich;
- a substantial reduction in patenting costs, in particular those associated with translation and deposit;
- greater legal certainty thanks to a single, centralised system for dealing with disputes before a Community patent court.
The proposed system would also remove the obstacles associated with the European patent system, which has been in place since 1973. The European patent is a single entity only until the moment of its issue, when it is transformed into as many national patents as there are countries mentioned in the application. After issue, the European patent is subject to national laws, and there is no common authority to harmonise the case law at European level.
Nevertheless, the aim of the Community patent is not to replace the existing national systems and the European system but rather to coexist with them. Inventors would remain free to choose which patent protection would be most appropriate.
The creation of a Community patent system is a sensitive issue as, until now, the project has always been blocked at the Council of Ministers. The main stumbling block is the question of translating the patent claims. It is therefore impossible to know when the Community patent will be available.