Historic EU single patent agreement hailed as ‘huge boost for business’ in South West - La Treizième Étoile: A blog on EU politics
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Historic EU single patent agreement hailed as ‘huge boost for business’ in South West

Friday, 14 December 2012
It has been a dossier disputed amongst EU member states for more than three decades, but this week MEPs convening in Strasbourg for the last plenary session of the 2012 calendar year voted through a deal which will allow companies to register one patent covering most of the countries across Europe.

Long considered an essential step towards completing the hallowed single market, the single patent was first muted in the 1950s and was proposed in 1973 but became stuck in a political quagmire as member states fought over the language rules and legal protections. Now, thanks to the vote on Tuesday (11th), plans to reform the patent system across Europe will go ahead, making it easier for inventors and entrepreneurs to register their products across the single market.

The report by German Socialist MEP Bernhard Rapkay, the first piece of legislation which is a regulation setting up a unitary patent protection system, was approved by 484 votes to 164 with 35 abstentions.

Under the previous rules, patents typically cost 18 times more than their equivalent in the United States because a patent must be registered in every one of the 27 EU Member States, costing on average £25,000 a time to ensure a product was protected in the single market. Without patent protection inventors run the risk of having their ideas copied and other people cashing in on their hard work.

The historic agreement means that from 2014 a single European patent will become valid throughout all 25 participating EU member states and the cost will tumble to around £4,000 as part of a 'one size fits all' package. The new unitary patents will be processed in English, French or German but can be submitted in any of the 23 official EU languages. Italy and Spain have opted out of the proposed common patent system as they were unhappy about their languages not being included in the proposed European patent.

South West Liberal Democrat MEP Sir Graham Watson welcomed the vote in the European Parliament and condemned Green and UKIP MEPs for opposing the move saying that they are 'shamefully blocking growth and innovation'.

From Babbage to Brunel, the Westcountry has championed new industry and long may it continue,he said after the vote. “I hope business parks across the South West will welcome today's vote, which will make it easier and cheaper for the Dysons of tomorrow to register and protect their products. This is part of a series of measures by the EU to cut red tape, demolish the hurdles to growth and get people back into work. The South West has always been a powerhouse for innovation.

"When so much of our trade -almost 50%- is with our EU partners, having a patent system which means that you can protect your ideas with one set of forms, rather than 27 makes life a lot easier. Businesses can now spend more time developing products rather than endlessly filling out paperwork.

Michel Barnier, the European Commissioner for the single market, was delighted at the result and described the reform as “a historic decision that enhances Europe’s competitiveness”.

Benoît Battistelli, President of the European Patent Office, was also delighted, adding: “the European Parliament is to be congratulated on this decision, which clears the way for the completion of the European patent system with a unitary patent and a Unified Patent Court, which we have been waiting for in Europe for 40 years."

Further comment came from fellow Liberal Democrat MEP Chris Davies, who said: "this is exactly what the EU should be doing, making it easier and cheaper for businesses across Europe to develop new products and promote innovation."

More information on the EU unitary patent can be found here.

UPDATE (07/01):

Writing in his regular newsletter to constituents, Conservative MEP Ashley Fox has welcomed the agreement on a single EU patent: "the creation of a Single European Patent in 25 of the 27 EU countries will benefit both small and large businesses. Those who rely on intellectual property rights will no longer have to go to every single national patent office to validate, renew and defend their patents under different legal systems. In the event of a dispute over their rights, they will no longer have to litigate in each Member State but can use a single court system, part of which will be based in the UK - a further boost to British jobs."

"This is encouraging news for European competitiveness. The Single European Patent will bring costs down and make it much simpler for patent holders to have their ideas protected across the EU. Technology and innovation are going to be vital areas for growth in Britain. This is a great move forward on the path to getting Britain moving and a further step towards the completion of the Single Market in the EU - the very reason we joined the EU in the first place," he said.

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