Breakthrough as single European patent is one step closer

11 Mar 2011

After more than 50 years of negotiation, the EU Competitiveness Council yesterday decided to authorise the use of the enhanced co-operation procedure for the creation of a single European patent.

Ireland’s new Minister for Enterprise, Jobs and Innovation, Richard Bruton TD, welcomed the move.

“This decision is a historic political breakthrough after over 50 years of negotiations,” Bruton said.

“Ireland has long supported the proposed European Union patent as a way of encouraging competitiveness, innovation and reducing costs, especially for small and medium-sized firms.

“It is imperative in the current global economic crisis that we as policy makers ensure that European business is not hampered by the current fragmented system that is both expensive and complex,” Bruton said.

Current Europe-wide patent system outdated

In the current system, each granted patent must be validated in each country in which protection is required. This has serious consequences for European competitiveness.

For example, a European patent designated in 13 countries is about 10 times more expensive than a US patent and 13 times more expensive than a Japanese patent, when processing and translation costs are taken into account.

“Our preference has always been for an EU patent to cover all member states,” Bruton said.

“I regret that this has not been possible, however, today’s proposal, under the enhanced co-operation procedure, will enable the 25 member states willing to participate to commence negotiations on provisions for unitary patent protection and associated simpler translation regime.

“The creation of a unitary patent title will ultimately improve access to patent protection and lower costs for businesses and entrepreneurs seeking cross-border protection for patented inventions.

“These cost reductions would particularly benefit Irish start-ups firms and small businesses,” Bruton added.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years