Looks like I spoke too soon. It had appeared that the last hurdle to the unitary European Union patent was overcome when the European Council reached an agreement to split the European Patent Court between London, Paris and Munich. However, a new setback has arisen that will certainly delay the creation of the unified European patent even further.
Specifically, in addition to the division of the European Patent Court, the European Council decided to delete Articles 6-8 of the agreement laying the groundwork for the unified patent. Articles 6-8 contained provisions defining direct and indirect infringement, as well as the authorization of the European Court of Justice to serve as an appeals court. This decision by the Council to delete these articles without consultation was received with great consternation by members of the European Parliament (MEPs). Klaus-Heiner Lehne, chair of the Parliament’s legal affairs committee, claims this move “emasculates” the proposal, with MEP Bernhard Rapkay calling the deletions “a scandalous breach” of procedure.
With the legitimacy of the deletions in doubt, the European Parliament refused to vote on the patent package at their July 4th session. Instead, the committee on legal affairs investigated this matter on July 10th and concluded that such a deletion jeopardized the legality of the EU patent.
As such, the unitary European patent finds itself again in a state of limbo. There are currently no further votes planned for the proposal and the European Parliament has agreed to reopen discussion in September. Patent applicants – Don’t hold your breath.