On June 29, 2012, Mr. Herman Van Rompuy, the President of the European Council, announced that twenty-five of the twenty-seven Member States of the European Union (EU) finally reached an agreement concerning the creation of a unitary patent system. Anticipated for more than thirty years, the announcement legitimately raised enthusiasm on the part of European authorities, inventors and entrepreneurs. Unfortunately, hope did not last. The day before the European Parliament was to debate and vote on the proposed regulations, the European Council removed three key articles from the draft agreement. In protest, the Parliament cancelled the debating and voting sessions. Today questions remain whether the agreement will be reviewed and adopted any time soon, or if national egos, political pressures, the interests of lobby groups and procedural complexities will keep impeding EU competitiveness.
The EU has no unified patent system. In order to secure EU-wide protection, an inventor must obtain a patent from the European Patent Office (EPO). Then, he must seek validation of his patent in each Member State. Most Member States require the patent to be translated in their official language(s). This generates large translation costs which increase the cost of patenting. According to the Danish Prime Minister, it can cost up to €20,000 to obtain coverage in just thirteen Member States. Approximately €14,000 of that total comes from translation costs alone. The absence of a unified patent system generates administrative complexities but also legal uncertainties, because the courts of each Member State can rule differently on the same issue within the same patent. This situation does not only impede the competitiveness of individual European companies (especially small- and medium-sized enterprises), but it also hampers EU competitiveness and economic growth in general.