EurActiv.com Correspondent's Choice

This story about an EU patent deal was published by EurActiv on 12th October 2010.

A final deal on the EU patent was still being held hostage by divergent national interests yesterday (11 October) at a Competitiveness Council held in Luxembourg.

EU ministers remain split between a group of countries led by France and Germany which support a trilingual system for the EU patent as proposed by the European Commission, and another group of states that oppose this solution and alternatively back a monolingual or multilingual regime.

The language used to file, contend and spread information about a patent is a crucial detail for countries’ competitiveness. Researchers and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) capable of using their mother tongue for patents will have an advantage over competitors that speak different languages.

On the other hand, the current system, which protects all EU languages, has produced legal uncertainty and soaring costs, making patents more difficult and expensive to file in Europe than in other industrialised regions of the world.

At yesterday’s Competitiveness Council, Belgium, which currently holds the rotating presidency of the EU, pointed out that under the existing system, a company willing to commercialise the same patent in all 27 countries must pay something like 25,000 EUR in legal and administrative costs.

Some critics argue that this is in fact rather unlikely since most companies only register their patents in specific markets. Only a few multinationals are interested in taking on all the cost of operating their patents in every EU member state. SMEs, on the other hand, tend to use their patents only in bigger EU markets.

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