Tuesday

19th Mar 2019

Member states squabble over seat of EU patent tribunal

  • Paris has not yet won the seat for the patent litigation court (Photo: Moyan Brenn)

EU ministers on Monday (5 December) failed to agree on the seat and the funding of a unified patent court, with Paris, London and Munich fighting for the headquarters.

A compromise "package" drafted by the Polish EU presidency got the support on most of the issues, except the seat of the main litigation court for the upcoming EU patent - with Britain and Germany refusing to cede it to France, as envisaged by the presidency, one EU diplomat told this website.

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The court seat could bring millions of euros in revenues to the country hosting it, as it would attract a flurry of legal offices and other related businesses.

Under the non-contentious parts of the deal, Luxembourg would get the appeals court, Slovenia and Portugal two mediation and arbitration centres and Hungary a training facility.

"An agreement on the vital elements of the patent package substantially advanced by the Polish presidency may reduce the cost of obtaining the protection of inventions in the EU by as much as 80 percent," Polish economy minister Waldemar Pawlak said at a press conference late Monday night.

He insisted that the court seat is the only outstanding issue to be resolved in the coming weeks, in order for a final agreement to be signed on 22 December in Warsaw.

EU states have been fighting for over 30 years over a single patent scheme. The dossier was blocked for a long time due to a Spanish and Italian veto on the three official languages of the scheme - English, German and French. Both Rome and Madrid insisted that their languages also be included, despite the EU commission warning that the translation costs for five languages would make the patent too expensive.

A legal breakthrough arrived in 2009 with the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, which allowed the other 25 member states to go ahead with the scheme under the so-called enhanced co-operation mechanism.

With the appointment of former internal market commissioner Mario Monti as Prime Minister of Italy, EUobserver understands that Rome is also ready to join the scheme.

Monti was a strong promoter of the single patent project during his mandate in Brussels. Spain, meanwhile, has not indicated it will rethink its position.

Speaking to Italian journalists on Monday, EU affairs minister Enzo Moavero Milanesi said Rome is only "partially" changing its position for now, accepting to join the jurisdiction of the future patents court, but still maintains its opposition to the language system.

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