Tuesday

10th Dec 2019

Angry MEPs postpone patent vote

  • London will get some of the patent hosting duties (Photo: UK Parliament)

Just days after being hailed as solved, the EU decades-long quest for a single patent hit an unexpected snag on Monday evening when MEPs postponed a vote on the draft patent claiming member states had "emasculated" the proposal.

Eurodeputies are up in arms about a late-minute deal - struck at last week's EU summit - with France, Germany and the UK on where to house the patent court.

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In a typical compromise - after all sides refused to back down - each country received a slice of the host duties. But it was the concession to British leader David Cameron, reducing the competence of the European Court of Justice in patent litigation matters, that has caused the outrage.

"If Council is working to delete articles 6-8, it would emasculate the proposal," said German centre-right deputy Klaus-Heiner Lehne, head of the legal affairs committee.

"We want clear confirmation that these three key articles are to be deleted. If so, this will go straight to the European Court of Justice as a 'crash test' case."

Bernhard Rapkay, the German socialist in charge of steering the legislation through parliament, said "we shall have to discuss this whole issue again" if member state representatives - meant to work out the details of last week's agreement - go ahead with currently-worded changes.

The patent vote was meant to take place on Wednesday (4 July). Instead the matter will now be discussed by the legal affairs committee along with legal experts from the parliament, European Commission and member states on 10 July.

Deputies are annoyed by the substance of the changes but also the principle - MEPs resent member states unilaterally changing a mutually-agreed text.

Monday's surprise move is the latest twist in what is generally referred to in Brussels as the 'patent saga' - negotiations on which began in the 1970s.

A deal was finally struck - excluding Spain and Italy who were miffed about the language regime - in December last year. But from that moment Paris, Berlin and London had been locked in a struggle over who should house the court.

The latest months-long impasse - which moved even the mild-mannered European Council President Herman Van Rompuy to express exasperation - sat uneasily with the EU's increasingly frequent calls for growth. Currently inventors are faced with the costly and lengthy process of registering patents in all 27 member states.

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