The implementation of a free trade deal concluded with Korea – the EU’s tenth-largest trading partner – is well on the way, notes the European Commission.  In 2009, Korea became the first Asian country to sign a free trade agreement (FTA) with the EU eliminating tariffs and non-tariff barriers in almost all products, including pharmaceuticals.  The FTA has been in force since July 2011.

The EU is a net exporter of pharmaceuticals to Korea.  The European Commission’s trade statistics show that in 2012 the EU’s pharma exports to Korea reached € 1,530 million whereas  imports from Korea totaled € 124 million.  In 2009, prior to conclusion of the FTA, the EU’s pharma exports to Korea totaled € 1,007 million and imports from Korea € 71 million.  A Korean source observes that in the first 15 months after the FTA came into force, the EU’s top medical export to Korea was ‘drugs for retail sale’ while its most imported medical product from Korea was ‘ultrasound diagnostic devices’. (Source: KHIDI Brief Vol. 49 as published on November 19, 2012.)

In addition to tariffs, the EU-Korea FTA addresses a number of non-tariff issues impacting pharmaceuticals, notably intellectual property (IP) protection.  The FTA includes a comprehensive chapter on this subject with important provisions on patent protection, as discussed below.  Some of these provisions in fact reflect existing laws, while others represent new developments.

Continue Reading Drug Patent Protection in Korea under the EU-Korea Free Trade Agreement

By Morag Peberdy and Christina Helden

Life sciences companies are already contemplating changing their patent strategies in anticipation of the EU’s Unitary Patent.  However, the timeline for the EU Unitary Patent has been delayed.  When the legislative package was agreed last December, many speculated that the 1 January 2014 date for the implementation of the EU’s Unitary Patent was overly ambitious.  The publication of the UK’s new Intellectual Property Bill (the “Bill”) on 10 May 2013 now gives real substance to this viewpoint.  The provisions of the Bill indicate that the UK will not ratify the Agreement on a Unified Patent Court (the “Agreement”), one of the key legislative instruments required for the Unitary Patent’s implementation, until April or May 2015.  Since the UK must ratify the Agreement before it can be implemented anywhere in Europe, it appears that the timetable has been derailed. 

The Unitary Patent will create a single patent with unitary effect, litigated in a Unified European Patent Court.  Regulation (EU) No 1257/2012 and Council regulation (EU) No 1260/2012 provide for the single patent with unitary effect.  The former also establishes the 1 January timeline for its implementation.  The Agreement creates the court system which will govern the new system.  However, the Unitary Patent cannot come into effect until 4 months after 13 EU member states have ratified the Agreement, which must include the UK, France and Germany. 

Continue Reading EU Unitary Patent is Likely to be Significantly Delayed

The UK Patent Box regime aims to incentivise companies to retain and commercialise existing patents and to develop new innovative patented products. The regime allows companies to apply a lower rate of corporation tax to qualifying worldwide profits attributable to qualifying patents and other similar intellectual property (“IP”) rights. It forms part of the UK Government’s growth agenda to encourage companies to locate the high-value jobs associated with the development, manufacture and exploitation of patents in the UK and maintain the UK’s position as a world leader in patented technologies. The regime came into force on 1 April 2013 and will be phased in until April 2017.

The headline rate for qualifying profits will be 10% (phased in by April 2017). However, the effective tax rate is likely to be higher as certain expenses are disallowed and certain profits are excluded from the regime. Therefore, the UK Patent Box regime does not provide tax rates as low as can be achieved elsewhere in Europe (e.g., Luxembourg, Switzerland, Ireland, the Netherlands and Belgium). Companies that do not want to incur the cost and complexity of establishing separate IP holding companies are likely to welcome the new regime as are companies with existing IP structures that are concerned about recent ministerial statements about tackling tax base erosion.
Continue Reading The UK Patent Box Regime: An Overview

This post originally appeared on our sister blog, InsideTechMedia.  

After more than 40 years of discussions, the European Parliament today voted in favour of the “EU patent package,” hot on the heels of the European Council’s approval yesterday.  The EU patent package will create a Unitary EU Patent i.e. a uniform patent which will have equal effect and will be granted, transferred and enforced in a unitary way in most of Europe.  Unitary EU Patents will be granted through the existing European Patent Office, but a new court system will be set up to enforce these patents.

The Unitary EU Patent will, in time, replace the current system of European Patents which – after grant – operate as independent national patents in up to 38 countries.
Continue Reading A Unitary Patent for Europe is Finally Approved

Article originally published in the Briefing paper for the BioIndustry Association on October 9, 2012

This note provides an introduction to trade marks and designs, from a European perspective. It aims to explain the relevance of trade marks and designs to bioscience companies. It has been prepared by Morag Peberdy of Covington & Burling

Article originally published in PLC Life Sciences Handbook 2009/2010

Many life science companies rely on their employees’ inventiveness to fuel their research and development (R&D) efforts and generate patents. The most successful inventions can generate billions of euros of sales annually. In some circumstances, the employees who created the patentable inventions may be entitled to

Article originally published in Concurrences, N° 3-2009 (September 2009)


DG Competition’s release of its long-awaited Final Report on its Pharmaceutical Sector Inquiry on 8 July 2009 was somewhat of a damp squib compared to the fireworks surrounding the publication of its Interim Report some eight months earlier. The

Article originally published in Global Competition Policy, February 2009 

The release of DG Competition’s Preliminary Report on its Pharmaceutical Sector Inquiry on November 28, 2008 was a Brussels media event, with press briefings, press releases, and an all-day public hearing that was covered by the Commission’s live television channel.1 Much of the discussion at