European Parliament Votes In Favour Of Patent System Reform

Max 'Beast from the East' Smolaks covers open source, public sector, startups and technology of the future at TechWeekEurope. If you find him looking lost on the streets of London, feed him coffee and sugar.

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The new rules will make patents more accessible to smaller businesses

Innovators in the EU will soon be able to obtain a single patent that is legally valid across 25 countries, after the European Parliament voted in favour of the new intellectual property laws.

The reform will cut the cost of European patents by as much as 80 percent and will make them more accessible to SMBs. As part of the “EU patent package”, the region will also get a single patent court.

It is thought that the changes could help the EU compete against the US, Japan and China, where patent registration is a lot cheaper.

Spain and Italy have chosen not to participate in the reform, but could join the rest of the EU at a later date.

Patent pending

After over 30 years of deliberations, the EU authorities have finally agreed the creation of a single patent agency. Previously, inventors had to register their work in every one of 27 European member states, and pay considerable application and translation fees.

The new patents, which were approved in a vote today, will be cheaper, “more effective” and provide automatic unitary protection across the EU. According to the European Commission (EC), currently, an average European patent costs around €36,000. After the reforms, this number will shrink down to just €4,725.

Under the new rules, applications will have to be made in English, German or French and patents will be issued in these three languages. In the case of SMBs and educational or non-profit organisations, translation costs will be subsidised by the patent office. The renewal fees, which can account for a large share of patent costs, will also be lowered for smaller companies.

Selection of just three languages for patent applications is one of the reasons why Spain and Italy have declined to adopt the new rules.

“Intellectual property must not stop at borders. The path towards the introduction of the EU patent was long and troubled, but ultimately it has been worth the effort”, said German MEP Bernhard Rapkay, who was leading the unitary patent project.

“Today’s vote is good news for the EU economy and especially for European small and medium enterprises,” he added.

The agreement creating a unified patent court will come into force on 1 January 2014, or after thirteen countries ratify it, as long as the UK, France and Germany are among them. Unitary patent system and the new language regime will also apply from 1 January 2014.

The European Parliament is not the only international body that thinks the current patent system is flawed. In October, International Telecommunication Union (ITU) invited regulators, researchers and representatives of the world’s largest technology companies to discuss “patent wars”, with little result.

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