5th Dec 2023

McCreevy beats head on wall over patents

EU internal market commissioner Charlie McCreevy has expressed his frustration over member states' inability to agree on a common European patent and is calling for EU companies to put pressure on their home governments.

"I call on member states to be active and not 'counter-active'", Mr McCreevy said, adding that EU companies "will have to put pressure on their national governments ... to do something."

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  • "I won't continue to beat my head up a stone wall." (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

"Europe doesn't have the time for navel-gazing and pondering over solutions," Mr McCreevy told business people at a pan-European intellectual property (IP) summit in Brussels on Thursday (7 December) arranged by a French management company Premier Cercle.

His frustration over how EU countries for two decades have been unable to agree on a way forward for an EU-wide patent system was clear.

"I won't continue to beat my head up a stone wall," he said, adding that he had already lost enough hair.

The European Commission and companies from Europe, as well as the rest of the world, are complaining that the European patent system is too slow and too expensive.

At the moment, persons and companies applying for a patent have to do so in many different languages and pay for it 25 times in order to get an EU-wide patent.

"We'd rather spend our money in China and other emerging economies where we get great value for money," said Stephen Anderson - a businessman from Canada.

Mr McCreevy pointed out that Europe "needs a simpler, more cost-effective system that maintains the highest standards in the quality of patent examination and grant."

He explained that European businesses and consequently European citizens are already losing out because businesses cannot afford to protect their ideas from being used freely by others.

But EU member states are reluctant to give up some of their jurisdiction and their language, as a common European patent would most likely mean having one European-wide patent litigation court and one working language - probably English.

Earlier this week (4 December), EU industry ministers meeting in Brussels were unable to agree on how to move ahead, although they acknowledge they have to.

The commission will in 2007 come out with a proposal on an EU patent system including action for more public awareness on intellectual property rights.

"The next few months will be critical," said Mr McCreevy.

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