Brussels brokers EU-wide patenting 'breakthrough'

Irish companies will benefit from an EU-wide single patent system to protect their ideas and innovations.

Irish companies will benefit from an EU-wide single patent system to protect their ideas and innovations.

A deal that has eluded EU ministers for decades was finally done in Brussels, establishing a cheaper, more efficient one-stop shop for patent registration in 27 countries.

Similar to the existing trademark office based in Alicante, the new patent office will enable companies and individuals to pay a single fee for EU-wide patent protection. There will also be a European patent court, to resolve patent disputes – potentially saving companies €277,000 a year.

The European Commission said “parallel litigation” – having to fight a cross-border patent dispute in different countries at the same time – typically costs at least €498,000 per case. A “unified” patent court, it estimates, would drastically cut that to about €221,000 in an average case.

The location of the new office and the language arrangements have yet to be agreed, but Minister for Higher Education and Intellectual Property David Lammy emerged from talks in Brussels to hail a breakthrough.

“This is a significant step towards the single EU-wide patent that business has long called for.

“If Europe is serious about our knowledge economy being key to economic recovery, then patent reform is the essential underpinning.”

He added: “This business-friendly deal will make patenting and innovating easier and more affordable for British companies. In particular, innovative SMEs will have more flexibility when choosing how to patent across Europe”

There is already an EU patent office in Munich – but those seeking to register their ideas still have to pay a separate fee for every European country in which they wish the patent to apply.

Mr Lammy said the UK would be working with other EU countries early next year to push hard for “business-friendly solutions to the language arrangements”, as well as finalising details of the patent court.

The trademark office in Alicante works in five languages, and has been so successful it recently dramatically cut its charges for trademark registration.

The EU patent office will save innovative companies at least €150m a year because of its more efficient, cheaper patent system, according to EU studies.

The European Commission agreed the deal will make patent protection cheaper for businesses and make litigation more accessible for patent disputes.

Enterprise and Industry Commissioner Gunter Verheugen said: “Making patenting less costly and more efficient has been very high on the policy agenda since many years.

“Therefore, today’s agreement cannot be overestimated. It comes at a moment when it is most needed.”

Single Market Commissioner Charlie McCreevy added: “This political breakthrough is a very strong signal from EU ministers that the EU is committed to achieve a true single market for patents.

“A number of issues remain to be resolved and we will work closely with ministers and MEPs towards achieving a final package that will meet the trust and confidence of users.”

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