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Italy drops opposition to the EU unitary patent

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15/06/2015

It has been reported that Italy has dropped its opposition to the EU unitary patent, leaving Spain as the sole Member State still opposing it.

The rationale for the EU unitary patent is to provide a single pan-European patent and a single court for litigating such patents. The unitary patent will sit alongside the “standard” European patents granted by the European Office, which take effect in Member States on a national basis. Under the unitary patent system, it will not be necessary for each unitary patent to be validated in individual Member States.

Italy, like Spain, had opposed the legislation behind the unitary patent on the basis that it contravened EU law. That challenge was rejected by the Court of Justice in 2013. Italy and Spain maintained that the requirement for unitary patent applications to be translated into English, French or German would create a barrier to trade and distort competition in their own countries. A further challenge – brought by Spain – to the language translation requirements was rejected by the Court of Justice last month, the Court ruling that they were an “appropriate and proportionate” response to the “legitimate objective” being pursued.

Following that last ruling, the Italian Government has said that it is no longer going to challenge the legal basis of the unitary patent and that it will press ahead with implementation. Indeed, it has described accession to the unitary patent as “a priority”.

If it feels like the process for establishing the EU unitary patent has been dragging on for years, that is because it has and we still do not know when it will come into force – 2017 seems the most likely candidate date at present although no-one would be surprised if there were further delays. We will keep you updated with developments.

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