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Innovation: EU (finally) adopts single European patent

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“Europe will finally acquire a competitive patent system,” French financial daily Les Echos is pleased to announce following the adoption by the European Parliament of asingle EU patent scheme.

“Thirty years of effort has finally materialised and, for once, the European Union is responding to a concretebusiness demand,” Les Echos says. The paper adds that the single patent will be implemented as of 2014 and explains how it will operate –

In effect, rather than paying the translation costs and the fees in each of the countries in which they wish to be protected, all inventors can request a single patent from the European Patent Office (EPO). This will ensure protection in 25 member states, excluding Italy and Spain which are reluctant to join. The patents will be available in one of the three principal EU languages (French, English and German) and, in case of dispute, the legal procedure will be unified and simplified. This vote by the MEPs will finally allow European small- and medium-sized businesses to compete on a level playing field with the United States and China. Simplifying the burden of translation will reduce the cost by a factor of at least six.

Despite impatient calls from business, linguistics is to blame for this European delay concerning patents, explains French daily Libération

Although translation costs are covered by the EPO – each company can deposit a request in its mother tongue – Rome was demanding an English-only process while Madrid pleaded for Spanish to be allowed. Their hardline stance can also be explained by the fact that both countries host many counterfeiters (fake Vuitton bags claiming to come from Rome are infamous).

Fatigued, the Commission proposed a “reinforced cooperation,” accepted by 25 countries, to get around the Spanish and Italian vetoes.” But this set off a new battle for jurisdiction, settled this summer, the paper explains –

A compromise was found in June: the Unified Patent Court, headed by a French expert, will be located in Paris, as is the patent office responsible for electricity, telecommunications and construction. But the office responsible for general mechanical engineering patents will be in Munich (30 per cent of expected disputes) and that responsible for medicine and biotechnologies will be in London (30 per cent of disputes). And with Luxemburg obtaining the headquarters of the Patent Court of Appeal, here is another maze-like system, this one to begin operating in 2014, at the earliest.

In Spain, it is the isolation of Madrid and Rome on this question that is highlighted. Spanish daily ABC calls the single patent “discriminatory” towards Spanish and Italian –

In the end, Spain and Italy lost their support and found themselves isolated, with the other 25 countries approving the patent. Spain maintained its position in defence of Spanish as an official patent language arguing that this would influence Latin American markets which are interacting more and more directly in Europe’s economy. Yet, the number of patents registered in Spanish, to date, is insignificant compared with those registered in German or English.

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