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28th Feb 2024

EU patent in five years, says industry commissioner

  • An EU community patent within five years? (Photo: EUobserver)

The European Union could have a common patent by 2012, the bloc's research and industry commissioner Guenter Verheugen has said, while blaming EU capitals for the 20-year deadlock which has harmed innovation in the 27-nation union.

"Protecting intellectual property in Europe is insufficient at the moment to provide the necessary drive for the innovation that Europe so desperately needs," Mr Verheugen said on Thursday (19 April) at a Patent Forum in Munich organised by the European Patent Office (EPO).

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He explained that small and medium sized companies (SMEs) – which account for 90 percent of the bloc's 24 million companies – have a hard time facing the costs of a patent application, which is on average 11 times higher than in the US and 13 times higher than in Japan – the world's top innovating nations.

Mr Verheugen blamed governments for standing in the way of improving the European patent system saying that the blocking national capitals were not just damaging other member states but also themselves.

Urge leaders to reconsider

Since the 1970s, there have been discussions on the creation of an EU community patent but it came to a complete stalemate in 2004 after EU ministers failed to agree on various issues, mainly on the question of time delays for translations claims.

"I really urge national leaders to reconsider their positions to allow us to move forward," Mr Verheugen said.

There are three areas where the EU executive would like to see a change. It wants to limit the languages used in the patent application processes to English, French and German, it wants a patent litigation system and finally a common EU patent instead of the 27 national ones.

Mr Verheugen told journalists in Munich that he had become more optimistic that the EU would get over its 20-year deadlock and have a community patent "in the next five years."

His renewed optimism comes after the president of the EPO – Alain Pompidou – said at a press conference on Wednesday (18 April) that France is likely to this year ratify the 2000 London Agreement which limits the languages used.

France's delay in ratifying the deal put the whole agreement on hold.

Bundled patents

The EPO has since 1977 granted European patents, which are bundled with national patents subject to national grant procedures. The EU is not part of the EPO although all EU member states are members of the 37-nation organisation.

Earlier this month, EU internal market commissioner Charlie McCreevy – responsible for the EU executive's limited powers in EU patent policies – came forward with a proposal on creating an EU-wide system of patent protection.

EU competitiveness ministers are expected to discuss the commission communication next week when they gather for an informal meeting in Wurzburg, Germany.

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