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<title>EU: the unitary patent</title>
<meta content="computer implemented inventions software patent law copyright ideas computer program compatibility and interoperability companies software developers users non-free Free Software legal uncertainty costs pay smartphones unitary patent" />
<h1>EU: the unitary patent</h1>
<h2 id="about">What is the unitary patent?</h2>
Currently, a person or company who wants a monopoly on an idea across
the European Union must apply for a patent in all 27 member states
A single market where people and goods can move freely across borders
is one of the central ideas of the European Union. In practice, many
restrictions still exist. The need to apply for a patent in each
member state, rather than just once, is often seen as such a
restriction. Patent holders resent the need to have their applications
translated into each member state's national language, and comply with
the different rules in each country.
For years, the European Commission and others have been trying to
build a patent system that covers the entire European Union, known as
the "unitary patent".
This process has proved surprisingly difficult. EU member states have
argued about all sorts of things. For a while, a row about which
languages patent applications could be filed in under the new, unitary
system held things up.
Another stumbling block was removed in June 2012, when the European
Council finally agreed on where the new system's offices should be
<h2 id="problem">Why is the unitary patent a problem?</h2>
A single European patent system would presumably make things more
efficient for patent holders, and for people applying to them. But the
devil is in the details.
The current proposal has the following problems:
No due process: Under the current proposal, the EPO not only awards
the patent, but also gets to make the final decision on whether
it remains valid when someone complains. The EPO court also lacks
a broader perspective of the social costs of patents.
We demand that the European Court of Justice must be the final
court of appeal for patent complaints.
Patents on software: Software patents are seriously hurting
Europe's technology companies. The EPO has been granting software
patents for decades, even though they are illegal under the
European Patent Convention. The unitary patent would make this
problem worse.
We demand that the current
proposal should explicitely
exclude computer programs from
patentability. A computer program
is not a patentable invention just
because it runs on generic data
processing hardware.
Giving up on innovation policy: Patents are a tool to promote
innovation. Europe needs a more active innovation policy. Under the
current proposal, the EU is handing over part of its sovereignty to
an organisation that it has no control over - the EPO.
We demand that the power to set Europe's innovation policy must
rest with the democratically elected European Parliament.
<h2 id="action">Take action</h2>
While our concerns remain unchanged, the unitary patent is no
longer on the agenda of the Legal Affairs committee for its
meeting on September 17 and 18. We expect the issue to be
discussed later in the autumn of 2012.
We will continue to provide updates on this issue.
<h3 id="call-mep">Call an MEP</h3>
Doing this is easy. Find an MEP from your country in the Legal Affairs
committee, and tell them about our demands. You can use <a href="
website</a> to identify and to call them. Here, you will also find
call scripts to help you along.
<h3 id="letter-company">Companies: Share your concern about the unitary patent with your MEPs</h3>
Please consider supporting a <a
against software patents and the current proposal for the
unitary patent.
If you want to contact an MEP to tell him/her about our demands and how the
unitary patent might harm your activity, you can find a <a href="/activities/swpat/current/model-letter-companies.html">model letter
<h2 id="reading">More articles on this topic</h2>
<li><a href="https://blogs.fsfe.org/gerloff/2012/09/05/how-the-european-patent-system-works/">
How the European patent system works</a> by Karsten Gerloff. September 5, 2012</li>
<li><a href="https://blogs.fsfe.org/gerloff/2012/09/04/software-patents-in-europe-game-on/"
>Software patents in Europe: game on</a> by Karsten Gerloff. September 4, 2012</li>
<description>Information about the EU's unitary patent.</description>
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