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14th Aug 2022

MEPs support vanguard group on EU patent

  • Europe's current patent system is considerably more complicated than those of Japan or the US (Photo: europa.eu)

MEPs have given their consent for a number of EU member states to push ahead with plans to create a single European patent, using a EU procedure known as 'enhanced co-operation'.

The decision by euro deputies sitting in Strasbourg on Tuesday (15 February) is a further step towards abolishing the current European system, under which businesses must secure intellectual property protection in individual member states separately.

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Last year Spain and Italy raised objections to European Commission plans to allow future EU patents to be printed in either English, French or German, the EU's three official languages, prompting 12 other member states in December to invoke a rarely-used EU mechanism to allow them to carry on regardless.

Others are expected to join the list, with Europe's complex and costly patent system frequently cited as disadvantaging the region's businesses.

"For far too long, EU inventors and innovative companies have faced a significant competitive disadvantage compared to their global rivals," Conservative MEP Malcolm Harbour, chairman of the parliament's internal market committee, said after the vote.

"I hope that Spain and Italy will soften their opposition to this proposal so that all EU countries can eventually be involved," he added.

Following the parliament's decision on Tuesday, EU industry ministers meeting in Brussels from 9-10 March are expected to formally adopt the decision authorising 'enhanced co-operation' among the less-than-full complement of EU states.

The commission will then submit two separate legislative proposals, one establishing the single patent and another on the language regime, although a number of stumbling blocks still pepper the road towards a final agreement.

A key ruling from the European Court of Justice is expected just days before the meeting of EU industry ministers next month, regarding the legality of a European Patent Court which would hear claims under a single European patent system.

If judges follow the recommendation of the court's top advisor, which last year said the new tribunal could be out of step with EU legislation and jurisprudence, the whole process could be set back considerably.

Spain and Italy may also use the courts to prevent their European colleagues pushing ahead without them, sources suggest, potentially dragging the EU patent debate well beyond its already 30 old years of discussion.

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