The European Commission (EC) has given its backing to the creation of a single patent system within the EU that any member state can sign up to.
The move is based on the ethos of 'enhanced co-operation', which means ratification of the law is not required by all member states but instead those that wish to adhere to the system can do so, while other nations are able to join in the future if they wish. Michel Barnier, the European commissioner for internal markets and services, has announced that the EC will be putting forward a proposal in 2011 outlining why such a system is needed and how it might be implemented.
The unitary patent will be based in one of the existing official languages of the European Patent Office - English, French or German - with any firm requiring translation from a verified EU language to these languages eligible for compensation. Use of the enhanced co-operation method for instigating a unitary patent system requires the backing of the EU's council of ministers and the European Parliament before it can be used.