EU countries unite on patent

16th of March 2011

The European Parliament is expected to give its first green light to a 23-country enhanced cooperation for the European patent, confirming a fast-track approach chosen by the European Commission despite a number of unresolved controversial issues.

So far the proposal for a EU-wide system has been blocked in the EU Council of Ministers because votes on language issues must be unanimous. The EU commissioner in charge of the dossier, Michel Barnier, proposed to maintain English, French and German as official languages for an EU patent but to allow paid-for translations of patents filed in other EU languages. However this is opposed by other member states, most notably Italy.

Patent costs high

Many countries have now said they "expect that a large majority of member states is prepared to successfully conclude on the unitary patent protection".

The cost of filing and protecting patents in Europe is 10 times higher than in the US and Japan, and business organisations have consistently complained about fragmented and inconsistent decisions handed down by European courts.

Companies often have to fight legal action in several European countries at once, and national courts regularly come to conflicting conclusions on identical cases. A single patent court would make litigation cheaper and more predictable.


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