Tuesday

13th Apr 2021

'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."

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

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."

Angry MEPs postpone patent vote

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.

British MPs demand London court to counter EU patent costs

MPs on the UK's House of Commons European Scrutiny committee have demanded that the new EU patent court be based in London in order to mitigate against what it described as "the most damaging effects of a unitary EU-wide patent".

Opinion

Why are our medicines so expensive?

The EU should be promoting open innovation in upcoming trade talks with India and should work to bring down the prices of essential medicines, both abroad and within its borders.

Opinion

Intellectual property protection - the cure for Europe's ills

The European Commission is considering rolling back medical research incentives, on the faulty assumption they are somehow driving higher drug prices. But not only is that premise flawed – the proposed fix will do nothing to benefit ordinary health consumers.

News in Brief

  1. Putin refuses to talk about military build-up, Ukraine says
  2. EU bank to help Greece manage corona-recovery funds
  3. Johnson & Johnson vaccine deliveries to EU begin
  4. EU sanctions commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guard
  5. UK opens investigation into ex-PM Cameron lobbying
  6. 'Significant differences' in EU-UK talks on Northern Ireland
  7. Bulgarian PM reveals price rise in new EU-BioNTech deal
  8. Biden sending envoy to Brussels

EU adds new 'dark red' zone to travel-restrictions map

The European Commission has proposed additional measures to limit non-essential travel within and to the European Union - amid fears over more transmissible mutations triggering a new surge in cases across the bloc.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region can and should play a leading role in Europe’s digital development
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council to host EU webinars on energy, digitalisation and antibiotic resistance
  5. UNESDAEU Code of Conduct can showcase PPPs delivering healthier more sustainable society
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen benefit in the digitalised labour market

Latest News

  1. How the pandemic became an EU goldmine for crime
  2. China responds to 'low-efficacy' vaccine fears
  3. Merkel party chiefs support Laschet's chancellor bid
  4. EU refuses to bail out Montenegro's China loan
  5. Industry lobby to 'co-decide' on nearly €10bn EU public money
  6. Why Ursula von der Leyen won't go
  7. Incorporating gender in trade policy to benefit all
  8. Does Italian regionalism actually work?

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us