Industry ministers from 22 countries will sign an international agreement to set up a court structure for the European Union's unitary patent on Tuesday (19 February). Italy will be one of the countries signing the agreement, despite joining Spain in opting out of the unitary patent system on grounds of linguistic discrimination.
At the time of going to press, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovenia indicated that they would not be in a position to sign the agreement next week because they still had technical issues to resolve. They are expected to sign at a later date. The agreement needs to be ratified in 13 countries – including the UK, France and Germany – before it can take effect.
Italy will not become part of the unitary patent system despite signing up to the court agreement, but any traditional patents filed in Italy will be dealt with by the unitary court.
The court's central division will be based in Paris, with branches in Munich and London, and will deal with litigation and validity claims. The first unitary patents could be issued in early 2014.
Jérôme Chauvin, the director of legal affairs at BusinessEurope, said that the signature was an important milestone.
“It's now crucial that the finishing touches are made quickly and to a high standard,” he said. “The unitary patent is a must if Europe is serious about innovation.”