Correspondent's Choice

This story about a proposed compromise to bring about an EU patent deal, was published by EurActiv on 11th October 2010.

The Belgian EU Presidency will try to narrow the distance between national delegations on the long-standing issue of languages and translations during a meeting of EU ministers starting today (11 October) in Luxembourg.

In recent days the Belgians have been circulating a revised compromise text where “more attention is given to the issues of automatic translation and cost reimbursement when an applicant files an application,” an EU presidency official said.

This represents a small step forward in comparison to the previous compromise proposal, but critics still consider it insufficient.

Some member states and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are worried that the cost of filing patents will soar for applicants whose tongue is different from the three official languages proposed by the European Commission – English, French and German.

The system could indeed establish a competitive advantage for British, German and French companies, by allowing them to file applications in their own language that would become instantly legally-binding in all other EU member states.

Moreover, they would also benefit from translations into their language of patents initially filed in another tongue.

The proposed system means that an Estonian or Portuguese company will first have to check for patents already issued in English, French or German in order to avoid filing a non-original patent.

This would trigger extra costs, especially when the filed language is not English. Patents in this language are indeed more easily understandable due to the widespread use of English among the scientific community, which is not the case for German and French.

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