Lib Dem MEPs call on UK Government to support deal on European Patent Court

Senior Liberal Democrat MEP Sharon Bowles, chair of the European Parliament’s Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee, has today called on the UK Government to support a proposed deal on the location of the new European Patent Court.

A European patent that covers the whole of the single market rather than the current system which requires patents to be registered in European countries separately and at greater cost (including substantial translation costs) has been on the table for over four decades.

Last year, the 40 year long battle over which languages should be admissible came to an end with the decision of 25 EU Member States to push ahead with the creation of a common patent regime without the involvement of ItalyandSpain. However, for the past 6 months,France,Germanyand theUK had blocked further progress over a disagreement on the possible location of the newEuropean Patent Court. Now a compromise deal has been proposed by Council President Herman van Rompuy to end the stalemate at the European Council this week. 

Commenting ahead of the European Summit this Thursday and Friday in Brussels, Ms Bowles, who is also the Parliament’s only European patent attorney, said:

“The European Parliament has long supported the creation of a single European patent to boost innovation and business opportunities across the EU.

“It is time for Member States to stop blocking the single European patent. We managed to break the stalemate over the language issue. Now it is time to end the deadlock over the European Patent Court’s potential location.

“The proposed compromise to split the new court across three different countries and cities – namely Munich, Paris and London – is a workable solution and will ultimately be a big boost to all involved.

“Patents have always fallen into various categories such as chemical and engineering with different basic problems. So separation by subject matter is no problem as clusters of experience will easily align with this.

“I hope the Coalition Government will go ahead and support this deal at the European Summit this week in Brussels.”

Constitutional expert Andrew Duff, Liberal Democrat MEP for the East of England, added:

“The row over where the patent court should be based is childish. Ideally, the patent lawyers should be as close as possible to where the inventors of patents are. So the proposal on the table of the heads of government is fairly sensible: patents for life sciences close to Cambridge in London; engineering in Munich close to the German automotive industry. The choice of Paris as the headquarters for patent court administration is a costly irrelevance – but a price that apparently has to be paid to achieve one of the EU’s inglorious compromises.

“Agreement on an EU patent has been held up for several decades by linguistic quarrels. We must not prolong this block by geographic jealousy. The interests of British-based science will be well served by reaching agreement on this controversial dossier tomorrow.”


Note to editors:

In the 1970s, facing failure to agree on anything, a completely separate international treaty set up the European Patent Organisation which can examine and grant so-called European Patents. However, once granted, there is a registration process for each country in which the patent is to take effect, a major cost being translations which, on average, cost €14,000. This is one of the major reasons why registrations are not made in all the possible countries.

A single European patent is seen as key to drive innovation across the EU and enable European countries to gain competitiveness in relation to the USand China. Since 1975, only 6% of young innovative companies have been European, while more than 70% have been American. In 2011, Chinawill register more patents than the US, Japanor Europe, helped by innovation incentives and an innovation-centred economy.

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