The European Parliament has given its consent to an EU-wide patent system to be set up under 'enhanced co-operation' rules, despite previous objections from Italy and Spain.
The European Parliament has given its consent for the establishment of an EU-wide patent system.
The decision means that patents filed under the single system will apply in all participating EU countries. This frees businesses from the need to file individual patents in each country, which significantly increases the cost of filing patents in the EU.
"Currently, national patents can co-exist alongside a European patent — issued by the European Patent Office, a non-EU body — but the system is complex and expensive: a European patent can be 10 times more expensive than a comparable US patent," the European Parliament said in a statement on Tuesday.
"A unitary patent system, abolishing differences between member states over patent rights, would make it easier and cheaper for inventors to protect their patents throughout the EU, help tackle infringements and create a level playing field for Europe's innovative businesses," it added.
In parliament, 471 MEPs voted in favour of adoption of the proposal, 160 against and 42 abstentions. The effort to create a single, simplified patent system has been around in one form or another since 2000, but has been hindered by language and translation issues.
Under the proposed system, EU-wide patents will need to be submitted in English, French or German. This means that applications in other languages will need to be translated, adding to the cost.
Spain and Italy objections
Spain and Italy have both objected to the plans over the translation issue, and in the past have proposed that an English-only solution would be more "politically acceptable".
A unitary patent system, abolishing differences between member states over patent rights, would make it easier and cheaper for inventors to protect their patents throughout the EU.– European Parliament
In July, the European Commission dismissed an English-only approach as it would "result in difficulties for users accustomed to working in either German or French under the existing long-standing EPO [European Patent Office] regime".
However, under the Lisbon Treaty rules of enhanced co-operation, EU member states can adopt new common rules even if a decision is not unanimous. Italy and Spain are free to join at any time if they wish, the European Parliament said.
The proposals are expected to be formally adopted by the Council of Competitiveness Ministers on the 9-10 March. Following that, the European Commission will finalise two legislative proposals — one establishing the single patent and one on the language regime.
This is only the second time that the enhanced co-operation rules have been used to allow member countries to forge ahead with establishing EU-standardised procedures. The first concerned divorce law, which continued forward under an order of enhanced co-operation on 12 July, 2010.
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