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European Commission

MEMO

Strasbourg, 15 May 2014

Justice for growth: cross-border debt recovery and Europe-wide patent protection are now a reality for EU citizens

Two important proposals of the European Commission will be signed into law by the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union today at 14:00 in Strasburg. The European Account Preservation Order (IP/11/923) and the updated rules for a specialised European patent court (IP/13/750) will formally enter the EU's Statute book, making life simpler and cheaper for European businesses and entrepreneurs. The European Account Preservation Order is a European procedure that will help businesses recover millions in cross-border debts, allowing creditors to preserve the amount owed in a debtor's bank account. The updated rules on the jurisdiction of courts and recognition of judgements (the so-called “Brussels I Regulation”) completes the legal framework for Europe-wide patent protection, and paves the way for a specialised European patent court – the Unified Patent Court – to enter into force, helping companies and inventors to protect their patents.

"This is a good day for businesses and entrepreneurs in Europe. Today's formal adoption of the two measures by the European Parliament and Council will help millions of SMEs save time and money - with an easy procedure in place to quickly recover outstanding debts across borders. It will also boost innovation in Europe, by guaranteeing businesses and entrepreneurs a swift decision on the validity of patents," said Johannes Hahn, EU Commissioner responsible for Justice during Vice-President Viviane Reding's electoral leave. "Europe is simplifying life for business and encouraging innovation in our internal market. This is a very good example of how justice policies can stimulate growth. By removing bureaucratic obstacles, extra costs and the legal uncertainty, the EU's single market will become more attractive."

1. European Account Preservation Order: helping businesses recover millions in cross-border debts

The new European Account Preservation Order will allow creditors to preserve funds in bank accounts under the same conditions in all Member States of the EU (except in the UK and Denmark). Importantly, there will be no change to the national systems for preserving funds. The creditors will be able to choose this European procedure to recover claims abroad in other EU countries. The new procedure is an interim protection procedure. To actually get hold of the money, the creditor will have to obtain a final judgment on the case in accordance with national law or by using one of the simplified European procedures, such as the European Small Claims Procedure.

The European Account Preservation Order will be available to the creditor as an alternative to instruments existing under national law. It will be of a protective nature, meaning it will only block the debtor's account but not allow money to be paid out to the creditor. The instrument will only apply to cross-border cases. The instrument provides common rules relating to jurisdiction, conditions and procedure for issuing an order; a disclosure order relating to bank accounts; how it should be enforced by national courts and authorities; and remedies for the debtor and other elements of defendant protection.

The European Parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee (JURI) voted to back the Commission’s proposal (MEMO/13/481) in May 2013. Ministers discussed the proposal at the Justice Council meeting on 6 June 2013 and reached a general approach on 6 December 2013 (SPEECH/13/1029). The European Parliament issued its support for the proposal in a plenary vote in April 2014 (see MEMO/14/308).

Next steps: After its publication in the Official Journal – the EU's Statute book, expected in June 2014, the Regulation will be directly applicable in the Member States (except in the UK and Denmark).

2. Filling the legal gaps for unitary patent protection

The unitary patent package will allow patent protection to be obtained for the 27 Member States taking part on the basis of a single application and without further administrative formalities, like validation and translation requirements. It will give inventors and companies' access to the markets of all the Member States participating in the enhanced cooperation and the Unified Patent Court Agreement at a vastly reduced cost, with far fewer administrative hurdles to overcome.

The international agreement on the Unified Patent Court was signed on 19 February 2013. The Unified Patent Court will be competent to handle disputes concerning both future unitary patents and current "classical" European patents. The Agreement has now to be ratified by the Member States concerned. The Unified Patent Court will be a single specialised patent court, with local and regional presence around the EU. Instead of parallel litigation in national courts, the parties will be able to get swift and high quality decisions for all states where the patent is valid.

Efforts to create a single patent extending its legal effects across all European countries have been made since the 1970s but had never proven successful.

In April 2011, the Commission tabled new proposals to create a European patent with unitary effect (or "unitary patent") in the framework of enhanced cooperation (IP/11/470) and (MEMO/11/240).

In December 2012, European Parliament and the Council reached a long awaited agreement on the European unitary patent package, which opened the way to the signature of the international agreement on the Unified Patent Court.

Ministers agreed on a general approach on the proposal amending the Brussels I Regulation at the Justice Council (MEMO/13/1109) last December. The European Parliament's Legal Affairs Committee (JURI) voted in favour of the compromise text agreed in trilogues with the European Commission and the Council of Ministers (MEMO/14/101) on 11 February. The European Parliament issued its support for the proposal in a plenary vote in April 2014 (see MEMO/14/308).

Next steps: After its publication in the Official Journal – the EU's Statute book, expected in June 2014, the Regulation will be directly applicable in the Member States (except in Denmark).

For more information

European Commission –civil justice:

http://ec.europa.eu/justice/civil

European Commission – Recognition and enforcement of judgements:

http://ec.europa.eu/justice/civil/commercial/judgements/index_en.htm

The patent reform: Unitary patent protection and the Unified Patent Court:

http://ec.europa.eu/internal_market/indprop/patent/documents/index_en.htm

European Commission – Civil justice policy: http://ec.europa.eu/justice/civil/index_en.htm

Follow EU Justice on Twitter: @EU_Justice


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