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Help Avoid the EU Unitary Patent Disaster

ComputerWorldUK - Glyn Moody - I've been writing about the attempt to craft a Unitary Patent in Europe for some years. The idea in itself is not bad: a patent that is valid across all of Europe. That would simplify filings and save costs, both of which are to be welcomed. But the devil is in the details, and it looks like those details are increasingly devilish.

There are two main issues for this column. The first is that the Unitary Patent could make it easier to obtain software patents in Europe. That's because German courts are already much friendlier to the idea, and if they approve such patents, they would then be valid even in software patent sceptical countries.

The second is related to the first, and concerns which court would ultimately rule on the validity of Unitary Patents. The two options are the EU's own European Court of Justice, or else an independent court populated by patent lawyers. The latter would not be an EU institution, and therefore would not need to take cognisance of things like the European Parliament's rejection of software patents a few years back. It could and almost certainly would do whatever it liked in this sphere, which would lead to a massive expansion in Europe of patents that concern software.

There are lots of deep issues about the overall legality of the Unitary Patent, but here I'd like to concentrate on the more pragmatic issues, which are probably easier to discuss with MEPs who are not necessarily lawyers, and don't really have time to get into the minutiae of this stuff.

First of all, there is the question of the timetable. Here's a summary: