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EU Intellectual Property Law and Policy

Catherine Seville

Intellectual property remains not just economically significant, but also of daily importance to most businesses and individuals. The digital age brings many opportunities, but also presents continuing challenges to IP law, and the EU’s programme of harmonisation unfolds in this context. Taking account of numerous changes, the second edition of this accessible book offers a fully updated account of the law as it affects all the major rights, free movement and competition matters, and enforcement. It sets the substantive law in its policy context, and discusses potential reforms to this major area of EU law.
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Chapter 3: Patents and related rights

Catherine Seville


A potentially very significant change is about to be seen in EU patent law, with the imminent introduction of the unitary patent, and the establishment of the Unified Patent Court. The patent system is regarded as crucial for protecting and fostering research and innovation, and the goal of a single patent within the Union was an obviously attractive one. It was seen as having the potential to simplify patent protection for users, and to reduce costs, thereby making the Union a more attractive market to trade in. Yet in spite of the importance which the EU attaches to patents, efforts (over decades) to create an EU-wide patent had previously proved fruitless. Nevertheless, the perceived importance of the objective for the internal market was such that efforts were maintained. Agreement was finally reached in 2013, and preparations are now well under way, with the expectation that the Unified Patent Court will open in 2017. The success of the venture has yet to be proven, but it certainly represents a step change in the reach and ambition of EU patent law.

As things currently stand, the effect of EU law on patent law is minimal. The Biotechnology Directive does regulate one self-contained element of patent law: the patentability of biotechnological inventions. There are Regulations which govern the grant of supplementary protection certificates for medicinal products and for plant protection products. These offer a form of sui generis protection, which does not extend the life...

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