Tuesday

6th Dec 2016

'Historic day' as EU patent deal ends 40-year wait

  • Atomium - Brussels' signature monument to scientific research (Photo: O Palsson)

The 40-year-long quest to create a single European patent ended on Tuesday (11 December) when the European Parliament ratified a deal which will come into force in 2014.

Speaking in the assembly in Strasbourg, EU single market commissioner Michel Barnier said that the achievement marked a "historic day."

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

Under the regime, inventors will be able to apply to the European Patent Office for a patent valid in 25 of the bloc's 27 member states.

Spain and Italy will remain outside the scope of the patent regime in protest that patents will only be available in English, French or German-language versions.

The three legislative files on the unitary patent, language regime and unified patent court, were each backed by wide majorities with over 480 MEPs in favour.

Supporters of a unitary patent claim that it will drastically reduce costs for businesses and entrepreneurs. Europe-wide patents currently cost around €35,000 each, according to the European Patent Office (EPO), almost 10 times the cost in the US. The European Commission says that EU patent costs could fall to €4,725.

However, the Green group broke ranks in opposing the deal, describing its validity as "legally uncertain" and criticising the status of the EPO and its European Patent Court, which is to exist outside the EU treaty framework.

Christian Engstrom - the Swedish Pirate party deputy and the group's spokesman on intellectual property rights - said the proposal "hands control over European innovation policy to patent lawyers with vested interests, and not the democratically elected legislators."

MEPs had previously demanded that the Luxembourg-based European Court of Justice (ECJ), which acts as arbiter on the application of EU law, should always be the first port of call for patent disputes, but now the patent court will play that role instead.

They had also criticised moves made in July by ministers to strip Articles 6 to 8 out of the patent law, which covered the right for patent holders to prevent the use of their invention for some applications and to put other limitations on their patents.

Speaking at a press conference after the vote, German centre-left MEP, Bernhard Rapkay, admitted that the deal was "a sub-optimal solution."

He added that MEPs had come under intense pressure from lobbyists to veto the deal in the weeks leading up to the vote.

Meanwhile, parliament legal Affairs committee chair Klaus Hehne Lehne told reporters that the rules would strengthen the EU's hand when negotiating on patent rules with China.

"We have closed an important gap in the single market," added the German centre-right deputy.

For his part, Jonathan Zuck, President of the Association for Competitive Technology, said the new system would "remove a major hurdle to innovation and growth" by protecting small businesses form "fragmented national legislation."

Analysis

Austrian far-right: beaten, but not defeated

Far-right candidate Norbert Hofer's loss to Green-backed Alexander Van der Bellen sent relief across Europe, but his party is still in a good position to head a government in the future.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressEJC President Breathes Sigh of Relief Over Result of Austrian Presidential Election
  2. CESICESI Congress Focuses on Future of Work, Public Services and Digitalisation
  3. European Gaming & Betting AssociationAustrian Association for Betting and Gambling Joins EGBA
  4. ACCAWomen of Europe Awards: Celebrating the Women who are Building Europe
  5. European Heart NetworkWhat About our Kids? Protect Children From Unhealthy Food and Drink Marketing
  6. ECR GroupRestoring Trust and Confidence in the European Parliament
  7. UNICEFChild Rights Agencies Call on EU to put Refugee and Migrant Children First
  8. MIRAIA New Vision on Clean Tech: Balancing Energy Efficiency, Climate Change and Costs
  9. World VisionChildren Cannot Wait! 7 Priority Actions to Protect all Refugee and Migrant Children
  10. ANCI LazioRegio-Mob Project Delivers Analysis of Transport and Mobility in Rome
  11. SDG Watch EuropeCivil Society Disappointed by the Commission's Plans for Sustainable Development Goals
  12. PLATO15 Fully-Funded PhD Positions Open – The Post-Crisis Legitimacy of the EU (PLATO)

Latest News

  1. Brexit deal must be done by October 2018, says EU negotiator
  2. Rising to the challenge of 'European Angst'
  3. Polish firm sues EU Commission over Gazprom privileges
  4. ID and police checks await all who enter and leave the EU
  5. Italy's Renzi to stay on to pass budget
  6. Dutch anti-Ukraine vote spawns 'app democracy' party
  7. EU agrees on debt measures for Greece
  8. EU scrambles to finalise gun-control reforms