EU agrees common patent to give inventors competitive edge
(BRUSSELS) - Ending a decades-long deadlock, European Union leaders struck a deal on Friday to create a single European patent that will make it easier and cheaper for researchers to protect their inventions.
EU president Herman Van Rompuy hailed the agreement, reached during a two-day summit, as a "historical breakthrough" after a compromise was agreed over which country will host the patent court.
In a "three-way split" with Germany and Britain, France's capital Paris was awarded the seat for the Unified Patent Court and the president's office, said a spokesman for the Danish presidency of the EU.
London will handle cases in the fields of life sciences, chemistry and human necessities such as agriculture while Munich will house administrative offices as well as be responsible for advanced engineering and resources efficiency.
This will give each city around one-third of patent cases.
British Prime Minister David Cameron hailed the development, which he said "has been I think more than 23 years in the making."
"A vital part of the court, covering pharmaceuticals and life science industries, in which Britain excels, will be based in London," he told a press conference, adding that he had also "secured the changes to the nature of the patent that businesses have been demanding."
The Netherlands dropped out of the running for a seat earlier this month.
Currently, companies and inventors must acquire patents in individual EU countries -- a process that each time can cost up to 20,000 euros ($25,200), including 14,000 euros in translation fees.
In comparison, US applicants spend only about $1,850 to protect their work.
Despite the breakthrough, and also after a long fight, Spain and Italy will stay out of the EU-wide patent system because English, French and German were chosen as its official languages. This means 25 of 27 EU states will be covered by the system.
EU Internal Markets Commissioner Michel Barnier called on Madrid and Rome to join the system and said he expected the European Parliament to give its green light to the legislation next week.
"Europe is falling behind the US and China in number of patents granted," Barnier said, adding he hope the first unitary EU patent would be registered in 2014.
"The new rules, once in place, will increase the potential for inventions and innovation within the European Single Market and reassert Europe's competitiveness."
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