A Unitary Patent for a (Dis)United Europe: The Long Shadow of History

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This article retraces the history of patent harmonization in Europe and reviews the European Union “patent package” and its approval by the Grand Chamber of the Court of Justice of the European Union in the light of this history. The article draws on archived and hitherto unused confidential documents to retrace the key institutions and players in the origins and evolution of the European patent unification movement. The study reveals that the EU project was originally led by the Council of Europe and analyses the reasons why the EU has struggled to develop a coherent model of integration to facilitate realisation of the internal market ever since. The historical legacy suggests that a critical turning point was the creation of the European Patent Organisation as the leading engine of patent policy in Europe, an autonomous organisation which is not subject to judicial oversight by the EU court or meaningful political scrutiny by the European Union and its members. The article concludes with a case study illustrating how the latent difficulties over the relationship between different European institutions and the jurisdiction of European tribunals and courts are manifested today in the unitary patent and the unified patent court.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)508-533
Number of pages25
JournalIIC International Review of Intellectual Property and Competition Law
Issue number5
Early online date24 Jul 2015
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2015


  • Unitary patent
  • Unified Patent Court
  • European patent harmonization
  • Regulation (EU) No 1257/2012
  • TFEU Art. 18
  • TFEU Art. 291
  • European Patent Organization


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