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Deal on Europe-wide patent 'in days'

18 January 2012, 13:02 CET
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Deal on Europe-wide patent 'in days'

Michel Barnier - Photo EU Council

(BEIJING) - EU internal market commissioner Michel Barnier said Wednesday he hoped that a final agreement for a single European patent would be reached within days, ending a three-decade struggle for a deal.

Efforts to launch a single patent that would cover the European Union -- making it up to 80 percent cheaper and easier for inventors to protect their work -- have been mired in discord for years.

"In several days, we hope to obtain an agreement on the creation of a single European patent after 30 years," Barnier told reporters during a two-day visit to Beijing.

He said the patent would represent "an immediate protection for industrial inventions for the whole of Europe, whereas today it is around 10 times more costly to protect industrial inventions than in the United States due to language (issues)."

Under the current system, inventors must acquire patents in individual countries -- a process that can cost up to 20,000 euros ($25,500), including 14,000 euros in translation fees.

In comparison, US inventors only spend around $1,850 to protect their work.

European ministers had hoped the deal would be concluded at the end of 2011, but it was held up when 25 EU nations committed to its launch failed to agree on where to headquarter a tribunal.

Italy and Spain have opposed the system in anger over the use of English, French and German as its three official languages.

Last May, Italy said it had lodged a formal complaint with the European Court of Justice against a decision by the EU member states involved to come up with a continent-wide patent without its consent.

During his trip to China, Barnier met with several senior officials including China's finance minister Xie Xuren.

He said they had reiterated their confidence in Europe's economy, despite Standard & Poor's move to cut the sovereign debt ratings of nine eurozone countries and the region's bailout fund.

Barnier also called on China to adhere to a new agreement reached by members of the World Trade Organization to further open up public procurement.

Foreign governments and firms have long complained China favours domestic companies and squeezes them out of the government's lucrative procurement market, although Beijing has abolished some measures seen as encouraging the practice.

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