Monday, 6 January 2014

Dutch government expects unitary patent to reduce regulatory burden by 11.3 million euro

The Dutch government has published their autumn report on reducing 'regulatory burden'.  The report includes an annex containing the steps taken to reach the goal 2.5 billion worth of reduction. Among the 45 pages (!) listing many many measures, I was pleased to find one labeled 'Unitary patent protection'. Below is the Dutch description, taken from page 20:
25 Lidstaten van de EU voeren een ‘unitaire octrooibescherming’ in. Dit betekent dat bedrijven die in Europa een octrooi willen aanvragen dit niet meer in al die Lidstaten apart hoeven te doen, aangezien het mogelijk zal zijn om een EU octrooi in 25 EU landen tegelijk te valideren. Een octrooihouder die voor deze route kiest zal niet meer worden geconfronteerd met nationale administratieve verplichtingen en vertaaleisen. Dit scheelt veel bureaucratie en kosten, vooral vertaalkosten. 

Wanneer alle octrooihouders hiervan gebruik maken, nemen de aan validatie in Nederland verbonden administratieve lasten af met maximaal 11,3 mln. De aan validatie van een unitair octrooi verbonden administratieve lasten en vertaalkosten kunnen nu nog niet goed worden ingeschat, maar zullen vele malen geringer zijn dan de kosten die octrooihouders nu nog in alle landen waar bescherming wordt gezocht, moeten maken. Tegelijkertijd met de totstandkoming van een Europees octrooi wordt voorzien in een geschillenbeslechting op Europees niveau.

Below is an English translation (edited form Google Translate):

25 EU Member States introduce ‘unitary patent protection’. This means that companies in Europe who want to apply for a patent will no longer have to do this separately for each Member State, as it will be possible to validate an EU patent in 25 EU countries simultaneously. A patentee who chooses this route will no longer be faced with national administrative obligations and translation requirements. This saves a lot of bureaucracy and costs, especially translation costs.

If all patent holders were to make use of this, the administrative expenses related to validation in the Netherlands will decrease by up to 11.3 mln. The administrative burden and translation costs associated with validation of a unitary patent cannot yet be assessed well, but they will be a good many times smaller than the costs patent holders current still need to make in all countries in which protection is sought. Together with establishing a European patent also dispute resolution at the European level is provided.

I agree that, for many, a unitary patent would decrease administrative burden, should one validate as a unitary patent instead of a conventional European bundle patent. There will be less of a need to manage multiple countries, each with an agent, its own fees, and its own requirements. Moreover, when comparing costs of a unitary patent to a sizable conventional validation, say 5 countries or so, your unitary patent costs will likely be lower. According to my estimates, the costs advantage will be primarily obtained in reduced overhead.

The text neglects to mention that unitary patent costs are likely higher when compared to a conventional small validation. As an extreme example, if one currently validated only in the Netherlands, an English patent needs only translation for the claims. With the unitary patent you need to supply a full translation.  Also unitary fees will be much higher than the Dutch fees. I wonder how one arrived at the 11.3 million euro.

The measure has a start date of January 2015. Judging from other sources this may be a bit optimistic.Also there may be only 13 participating member states, not 25.

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