Page last updated at 10:28 GMT, Tuesday, 11 December 2012

MEPs back single European patent after 40 year delay

A deal to create a unified European patent scheme after almost 40 years of negotiations has been broadly welcomed by MEPs.

Currently European patents can cost six times more than patents registered in the US and Japan, because of translation costs and the need to register a patent in each EU country.

The debate on 11 December 2012 focused on a deal reached with the Council of Ministers to establish the main site of the Unified Patent Court in Paris.

London will now host the court dealing with life sciences and chemistry, while Munich will have the court that handles engineering litigation.

The three-way compromise arose because there was no agreement about a single site for the patent court.

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.

This is an example of the so-called "enhanced co-operation" process whereby countries can opt-out of EU schemes.

One of the parliament's negotiators on the unified patent scheme, the Italian centre-right MEP Raffaële Baldassarre said the existing patent system was a "tax on innovation", adding that he hoped the Italian and Spanish governments would opt-in as soon as possible.

Meanwhile a liberal MEP from the Catalan region of Spain, Ramon Tremosa i Balcells, said his government was behaving in a "petty, nationalistic way" for refusing to take part in the patent system on linguistic grounds.

As part of the deal struck with the Council of Ministers following concerns by the UK government, the role of the European Court of Justice and the European Parliament in overseeing the patent system will be limited.

Austrian green MEP Eva Lichtenberger complained the compromise was a result of the Council of Ministers removing key provisions "at the behest of Mr Cameron", claiming that the parliament had "given up its chance to have an impact".

However British conservative Sajjad Karim said the institutional rows and delays over the creation of the patent was "an example of what's wrong with Europe".

"We've been waiting 40 years for this. China is now breathing down our necks," he added, pointing out that the EU now made up only 20% of all worldwide patent applications.

The deal was approved with a majority of over 300 votes during the daily voting session later in the day.

The European Commission expects the first European patents to be registered by 2014.

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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