Page last updated at 18:57 GMT, Monday, 14 February 2011

European patent debate

The creation of a single patent system for the EU came another step closer on 14 February 2011 as MEPs broadly supported using the so-called "enhanced co-operation procedure".

The procedure allows countries that wish to work together to do so where unanimity cannot be reached - in this instance meaning that all EU countries apart from Italy and Spain would work together.

There have been moves since 2003 to develop a single EU patent, however these have been blocked by various linguistic, technical and legal difficulties.

Eniko Gyori, representing the Council of Ministers, said that creating a European patent would improve competitiveness and aid small businesses.

She highlighted the costs of having to register patent protection in each member state, as opposed to one single patent system.

This puts EU firms at a disadvantage against those from the US or Japan which have a single patent system.

Currently national courts in each member states often come to different conclusions on identical cases.

Linguistic opposition

Spain and Italy have refused to participate in the EU patent system, following a decision by Internal Market Commissioner Michel Barnier to maintain English, French and German as the sole official languages of EU patents.

Spanish centre right MEP Antonio Lopez-Isturia White reiterated Spain's opposition during the debate, saying the proposed system went against the spirit of the EU treaties that treat all EU languages as equal.

He claimed it was a political decision, saying that if it was about efficiency, then only English should be used.

The proposal to use the enhanced co-operation method was backed by 471 votes to 160 at the daily voting session on 15 February 2011.

Read Democracy Live's guide to how the plenary sessions work here.

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