Intellectual property rights (IPRs) are a principal economic driver. Patents in particular encourage ground-breaking research and afford legal protection. Their use is widespread and fundamentally underpins our economy and industry.
According to a joint study between the European Patent offi ce (EPO) and the Office of Harmonisation for the Internal Market (OHIM), IPR-intensive industries account for almost 40 per cent of EU's GDP. However, Europe is not alone in its use of IPRs. The number of patent applications filed for new inventions is growing globally by nearly two million every year.
Since the 1970s, the EPO has delivered quality patents and developed ground-breaking initiatives to effectively manage the evolving challenges of the international patent system.
Now, EU member states, their economies, their inventors and industries will profit from a new opportunity with the imminent introduction of the unitary patent.
Granted by the EPO, the new patent will establish - for the first time - unified legal protection across the EU, uniting 26 EU member states under a single patent.
This will not only cut red tape, translation and legal costs, it will also enhance legal certainty in the European patent system.
Under the new system, disputes related to these patents will be heard by the unified patent court (UPC), a specialised court that will have its central division in Paris with adjuncts in London and Munich. This is in addition to local divisions in many other EU states.
Its ruling will be binding on all participating states and will provide an effective supranational court in the field of patents, which will avoid the possibility of contradictory national rulings.
In addition to enhanced legal certainty, patent applicants from all over Europe and the world will benefit from a significant reduction in costs.
Projections show that the unitary patent could deliver savings of up to 80 per cent compared to separate national patents. It is a move that is expected to reduce the financial burden on Europe's SMEs and ultimately boost EU innovation and the economy.
We have taken the necessary preparatory measures to ensure that administering the new unitary patent is implemented in an efficient manner.
At the end of last year, our organisation supported member states in finalising a package of rules that now means the EPO is legally, technically and operationally ready to deliver the unitary patent.
The last remaining step before the unitary patent becomes a reality is for five more states, including the UK and Germany, to ratify the agreement on the unified patent court.
Only then will we be able to administer the first unitary patent. Only then will European innovators and the European economy reap the significant benefits of this new, simplified patent.
The unitary patent is a vibrant example of Europe's capacity to reform itself, overcome barriers and offer new opportunities to our economic actors allowing us to continue to compete at the global level.