Protecting new product ideas throughout much of the EU is set to become a lot cheaper and easier after MEPs today adopted proposals for a common European patent.
Each EU state currently issues its own patents, which entails huge costs for inventors. It is estimated that the cost of registering a patent covering only half of the EU is still 10 times more expensive than registering a patent in the USA.
Now, the European Parliament has endorsed a plan that will allow 25 out of the 27 EU countries to go ahead with a single patent. So far, 11 countries -Great Britain, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Slovenia and Sweden – have signed up to the initiative and others are expected to agree in due course.
The European Parliament has been discussing the idea of a joint patent for 30 years, but the protagonists could not agree on which languages should be used for the patents. The deal agreed today will see a patent translated into English, French or German.
Hitherto, Italy and Spain have blocked any deal that left Italian and Spanish out, and they will still not sign up to the proposal.
And the plan may yet falter in the final stages, with opponents claiming that the language compromise may be illegal.
Speaking after the Strasbourg announcement, Sajjad Karim MEP, European Conservatives and Reformists group legal affairs spokesman, said: “For years, a European-wide patent seemed to be one of these great ideas that would never get off the ground but, thankfully, today there has been a significant breakthrough.
“Businesses large and small will be able to protect their innovations across much of Europe, thus encouraging an EU of innovators and entrepreneurs that we need.”
Malcolm Harbour MEP, chairman of the parliament’s internal market committee, gave his strong backing to the European patent, saying that EU inventors and innovative companies had “faced a significant competitive disadvantage compared to their global rivals. As China is now a major patenting power, it’s time we took action.
“A single EU patent will provide the quality of protection that inventors need to exploit their work across the European Union at a far lower cost than the current fragmented regime.”
He added: “I hope that Spain and Italy will soften their opposition to this proposal so that all EU countries can eventually be involved.”