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Europe 'must deliver urgently' on patents

Written by Husna Bano on 13 April 2007

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There is an urgent need for action to provide a simple, cost-effective and high-quality patent system for the European Union says a European Commission Communication issued this month.

Currently, a European patent designating 13 countries is 11 times more expensive than a US patent and costs 13 times more than one in Japan, because of expenses relating to translation and dispute settlements in the EU's 27 different national legal systems, and this is proving a particular disincentive for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

There is widespread support for a simple EU-wide patent system that would save companies the cost and effort of having to apply to the various national regimes, but Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) and member states have been unable to reach consensus, mainly on what language the patent should be written in.

The Commission says it still believes that "a truly competitive and attractive Community patent can be achieved, provided there is political will to do so," and it has pledged to take account of concerns about over-centralised EU jurisdiction. The way forward, it suggests, could be through the creation of a unified, specialised patent judiciary, with a number of tribunals set up to handle patent disputes such as infringement-related claims across the EU, while appeals would be heard by a single court, for example the European Court of First Instance. The final judgement on patent jurisdiction would be provided by the European Court of Justice.

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