The European Union (EU) is working toward a major reform of its patent laws that would create a European Patent and a European Patent Court for handling patent infringement litigation. Although the European Patent Office (EPO) serves as the primary examining body for most patents being prosecuted in Europe, the actual issuance of patent rights as well infringement litigation are still handled country-by-country.
In a December 4, 2009 meeting, a unanimous EU Competitiveness Council adopted a set of conclusions supporting the new regime. Under the proposal, the new patent court would have exclusive jurisdiction over civil litigation related to EU and European patents. The new regime would likely require a revision of the European Patent Convention (EPC).
The Leading UK Patent Blog IPKat indicates that this is "happy news." IPKat quotes a UK IPO press release that "This business-friendly deal will make patenting and innovating easier and more affordable for British companies. In particular, innovative SMEs will have more flexibility when choosing how to patent across Europe".
The EU Press Release suggests that lowering costs is one of the most important goals: "The creation of an EU Patent would help to improve the current situation where a patent designating only 13 EU Member States is already 11 times more expensive than a US patent."
Although more likely now than ever, this same debate has been ongoing for the past 40 years in Europe.