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Unified European Patent and Patent Courts a Likely Reality by 2014

In the wake of the United States falling in line with the rest of the world by changing to a "first inventor to file" system on March 16, Europe has made significant progress in establishing both a unified European patent and a unified patent court. Recently, the European Parliament voted to create a Unified Patent that can be enforced in any of the 25 member states without requiring patent owners to register in each individual country. Thus, the system would save patent applicants from having to validate a patent granted by the European Patent Office (EPO) in each member state, thereby eliminating local fees and translation costs. Additionally, the European Parliament voted to create a Unified Patent Court to help enforce the Unified Patent, and to help provide greater consistency in proceedings and judgments across the member states. While the Unified Patent and Unified Patent Court are not law yet, it is anticipated that the necessary member state approval process can begin as early as February 18, 2013. In particular, 13 European Union (EU) member states must ratify the Unified Patent and Unified Patent Court, and those 13 member states must include France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. Member states may opt out of the system. The EPO anticipates validating the first Unified Patent in 2014.

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