|The European Parliament's new building is designed|
to reflect that body's flexibility in dealing with patent law
"The European Parliament gave its consent ... for a common EU patent system to be created using the enhanced cooperation procedure. In December 2010, twelve Member States made a request to launch such a procedure, after it was concluded that not all the Member States could agree on an EU-wide patent system.Early comments are generally supportive, if the early press releases thudding into the IPKat's emaiil in-tray reflect the consensus. Keith Hodkinson (Marks & Clerk chairman) has described the current system as being patchy, adding: "This hasn’t helped anyone, least of all the SMEs we are trying to help innovate. No one EU country is being excluded by the scheme – all can join or not as they choose" He adds, “We must not let language issues be used to obstruct a desirable reform.” Ilya Kazi (partner, Mathys & Squire LLP) agrees: "Until now an innovator who has successfully navigated the search and examination process and been granted a patent in Europe has immediately faced a bill for filing translations (that may well never even be read) often amounting to more than the entire cost of the battle of getting to grant. ... A more pragmatic, complete solution that makes the formal part of the process cheaper and more straightforward is long overdue".
All the other Member States except Italy and Spain have since indicated they will sign up to the procedure. These two countries can still join in at any time if they wish.
Parliament gave its backing today for the procedure to go ahead by 471 votes to 160, with 42 abstentions.
The Council of Competitiveness Ministers is expected to formally adopt the decision authorising enhanced cooperation on 9-10 March. The Commission will then submit two legislative proposals: one establishing the single patent (under the co-decision procedure) and the other on the language regime (consultation procedure). In today's resolution, drafted by Klaus-Heiner Lehne (EPP-ED, DE), MEPs call on the Council to use the co-decision procedure for both proposals.
[Usual paragraph about how long everyone's tried to get consensus and about how much more it costs to get a patent in Europe than in the US omitted]
A unitary patent system, abolishing differences between Member States over patent rights, would make it easier and cheaper for inventors to protect their patents throughout the EU, help tackle infringements and create a level playing field for Europe's innovative businesses [unless, of course, it doesn't. This at least can be quantified].
What is enhanced co-operation?
Under the Lisbon Treaty, "enhanced co-operation" can be used to enable a group of Member States to adopt new common rules when a unanimous EU-wide agreement cannot be reached.
Such a procedure may go ahead only after the Council authorises it, on the basis of a Commission proposal, and after the European Parliament has given its consent.
This is the second case of enhanced cooperation, the first being the divorce law approved in 2010".
Says the IPKat, the adoption of an enhanced cooperation programme will only bring benefits if (i) it is formulated in a manner which will allow it to so and (ii) the various professions nationally and across the EU who service the innovative industries are able to adapt to it and make it work. The pan-European Community trade mark -- an excellent idea and now working fairly well -- has taken 15 years to get into proper working order, since the new system took some time to learn and, more tellingly, the old system took a very long time to forget. Germans, Dutch, British and others imported their old habits and their old conceptual assumptions into the running of the new system, resulting in a large degree of uncertainty and a huge quantity of requests to the European Court of Justice to explain how the system works. An EU patent must work more quickly: 15 years is substantially longer than the lifetime of the average granted patent.