Elise Melon
European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations

The Italian government has formally notified the EU of its desire to participate in the unitary patent system. Elise Melon of the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations explains

Italy is finally becoming a signatory to the unitary patent system. What will this mean?

The European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA) welcomed the announcement that Italy has made joining the unitary patent system a priority. Prior to the announcement, Italy was only a signatory to the Unified Patent Court (UPC) Agreement. It has now announced its intention to join the 25 member states that decided to establish enhanced cooperation in the creation of unitary patent protection.

What it means is that the new European patents with unitary effect will also have effect in Italy, along with protection in the 25 other member states participating. Such patents will have a unitary character and effect and will be enforced at once in front of the UPC. It also means we are getting closer to a true European patent with unitary effect across the full 28 member states.

What benefits would Italy enjoy if it becomes a part of the unitary patent system?

Italy’s joining the unitary patent system will bridge the current gap. For the Italian economy, innovators and small- and medium-sized entities, the advantages are obvious and will materialise quickly in terms of cost savings and reduced administrative burden.

Italy being part of the system will also make it more attractive for foreign investors, which will further boost Italy’s economy, in line with the Italian government’s objectives to encourage innovation and internationalisation.

Italy’s participation in the system also has benefits for other participating member states and all future users of the system. The more member states covered by the unitary patent, the more attractive the system is for all users.

Will countries part of the unitary patent system likely see less domestic patent applications in favour of EU-wide protection?

One of the main objectives of the unitary patent system was to offer affordable unitary and EU-wide protection, so it has some clear advantages for patent applicants and it is indeed expected that a number of former purely domestic applicants will be interested in unitary patents. It should mean that there will be fewer purely domestic patent applications to the benefit of European patent applications with unitary effect. However, how rapid the transition and uptake will be is still unclear. We can only rely on estimates for now. 

How are patent owners reacting to the stipulation that patent applications will only be accepted in English, French or German?

Again, it’s a key objective of the system, building on the current European Patent Convention, that EU-wide protection can be provided at an affordable cost. To that end, translation costs, which are not insignificant under the current European patent system, had to be cut down. Of course, EFPIA can only comment for the pharmaceutical industry and we don’t see it as a problem, as most patent applications in our sector are already filed with the European Patent Office (EPO) in one of these three languages. It will only significantly cut those translation costs that were required so far for the national validation of European patent applications.

For other sectors and entities, which are not necessarily already filing patent applications with the EPO, a number of measures were provided to help with the transition as well as a compensation scheme to reduce the costs of translation into one of these three languages for SMEs, natural persons, non-profit organisations, universities and public research organisations. Patent Translate—the EPO’s machine translation programme, developed together with Google—will also help to navigate patent information under the new system. 

Is there any chance of reforms of the language issue, now that Italy has agreed to join the unitary patent system?

After the Court of Justice of the EU dismissed legal challenges against the two regulations forming part of the unitary patent package on 5 May, we don’t foresee any reform of the language arrangements of the unitary patent system. We trust that the transitional measures and compensation scheme will help Italy to move to and benefit from the new unitary patent system.

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