Page last updated at 16:36 GMT, Wednesday, 27 June 2012 17:36 UK

European patent system

Watch live coverage of MEPs debating plans to create a common European patent system on 3 July 2012.

In December 2011, the Justice Committee approved a deal struck by European Parliament representatives and the Polish presidency of the Council for a common patent system in the EU.

The new regime will provide automatic unitary patent protection, designed to cut costs for EU firms and help boost their competitiveness.

A unified patent court will also be created - set up through an international agreement negotiated by member states.

At present, a European inventor must obtain a permit in each EU member state, via the European Patent Office, in order to get EU-wide protection.

This can make a European patent 10 times more expensive than a US one because of translation costs.

The European Commission says that under the new system, an EU patent may cost €680 - compared to an average of €1,850 for an American one.

Before the new regulation can come into force it must be endorsed by the European Parliament, and the Council.

Two of the EU's 27 member states have opted out of the proposals: Spain and Italy.

They lodged a legal challenge with the European Court of Justice questioning the legality of using the new enhanced co-operation procedure to bring in the patent system.

The procedure allows a group of countries to press ahead with EU legislation when not all 27 member states agree.

Spain and Italy fear discrimination because patents would be filed only in English, French or German.

The European Parliament will give its verdict on the proposals during the voting session on 4 July 2012, from 11.30am.

Useful links:

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

A disclaimer on the use of simultaneous interpretations, on the European Parliament's website.

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