EU comes up with novel patent idea: cut red tape

BRUSSELS Tue Dec 11, 2012 2:03am IST

An European Union flag flutters outside of the European Parliament in Brussels October 12, 2012. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir/Files

An European Union flag flutters outside of the European Parliament in Brussels October 12, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Francois Lenoir/Files

Related Topics

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - A system that made patent registration up to 60 times more expensive in Europe than in China is being scrapped in favour of a one-size-fits-all pan-European process, EU officials said on Monday.

Signing off on a plan first considered in 1973, 25 of the EU's 27 industry ministers - apart from Spain and Italy - agreed to allow inventors to register their idea with one EU agency.

The old system makes the process 18 times more expensive than in the United States and 60 times more than in China. Under the previous system, patents had to be registered separately in individual EU countries - up to 27 times to cover the whole EU.

"Discussions have been under way for more than 30 years and this decision will help to revive the European economy," said Neoklis Sylikiotis, Cyprus's industry minister who chaired the meeting and whose country holds the rotating EU presidency.

Rome and Madrid are challenging the right to proceed at the EU Court of Justice (ECJ), saying the new patent system does not give due recognition to their languages.

A top adviser to Europe's highest court is scheduled to give an opinion on Italy's and Spain's legal challenge on Tuesday and judges in the court will make a ruling in the next few months.

"This is a historic decision that enhances Europe's competitiveness," EU Financial Services Chief Michel Barnier, who attended the meeting of ministers, told a news conference. "The door is open for Italy and Spain to join."

The European Parliament is expected to approve the single patent system on Tuesday in Strasbourg. If the ECJ rejects Rome's and Madrid's case, the patent can come into force on January 1, 2014.

An EU patent, which will still cost more than double the U.S. level at about 5,000 euros on average, will not revolutionise innovation in Europe overnight.

But the reform is good for business at a time when Americans obtained four times as many patents as Europeans did in 2011.

Patents, which grant the exclusive legal right to develop and exploit an idea for a limited period of time, are seen as central to encouraging innovation by ensuring that innovators can properly benefit from their efforts.

U.S. COMPANIES FAR AHEAD

U.S. companies were far ahead of Europe and Japan in terms of innovation in 2012, according to a Thomson Reuters study that named 47 U.S. companies in its list of the world's top 100 innovators, based on the number of patents registered, their success, international impact and level of ideas.

An EU patent was first created in 1973 in Munich, but the agreement never entered into force, according to the Parliament.

While EU countries have long agreed over the benefits of a unitary patent, Germany, France and Britain disputed who should host the court that will adjudicate in patent disputes.

The EU's public debt and banking crisis and a stagnant economy that pushed unemployment levels to 26 million people in October helped overcome those divisions, as EU leaders search for growth at a time of sharp spending cuts.

At a summit in June, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande and British Prime Minister David Cameron agreed to split the court between three centres - Munich, Paris and London, depending on the type of patent.

Under the compromise, the court's headquarters will be in Paris, with some functions in London and Munich.

Anyone seeking to challenge an infringement of their patent in life sciences, for example, will do so in London. Cases concerning engineering and physics will be dealt with in Munich.

(Additional reporting by Ethan Bilby; Editing by Michael Roddy)

FILED UNDER:
Comments (0)
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.

  • Most Popular
  • Most Shared

India-Nepal Ties

REUTERS SHOWCASE

Facebook Results

Facebook Results

Facebook beats Wall Street targets, stock hits record high  Full Article 

Gm Recall

Gm Recall

GM recalls 717,950 vehicles in U.S., not for ignition switches  Full Article 

Factory Sector

Factory Sector

China July HSBC flash PMI at 18-month high of 52.0   Full Article 

Breakingviews

Breakingviews

Apple winds up earnings hope for new gadgets  Full Article 

BRICS Bank

BRICS Bank

World Bank chief welcomes new BRICS development bank.  Full Article 

Streamlining Operations

Jet Streamlines

Jet Airways chairman says looking to restructure debts, talking to bankers  Full Article 

Political Economy

Political Economy

Analysis - Watch what markets don't do as world politics turns nasty   Full Article 

Honda's India Thrust

Honda's India Thrust

Honda's India unit to account for 25 pct of Asia Pacific sales by March 2017 - exec   Full Article 

 Boosting Output

Boosting Output

NMDC plans to boost iron ore output by two-thirds  Full Article 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device.  Full Coverage