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Breakthrough for EU patent system

EU Member States have agreed  on the main elements of the EU patent and a single European Patent Court. The agreement is seen as representing a significant step towards a final solution for the EU patent.

On 4 December 2009, the Competitiveness Council of ministers reached unanimous agreement on the general focus of the European patent regulation and on a common European Patent Court. The breakthrough comes after a long period of wrangling over the issue. 

An EU patent will mean that people can apply for a patent to be valid throughout the European Union- a market of some 500 million people. The EU patent is seen as being cost-effective and a drastic improvement to the current situation - where it is much more expensive to get patent protection in the EU than in competing markets.

For the EU presidency, the Swedish Minister for Trade Ewa Björling stated: "I am very pleased that we have finally seen a political breakthrough in these difficult negotiations that have gone on for so long. I am proud that the Council has now sent a clear and unambiguous signal to Europe's innovative companies that have long been calling for an improved patent system.

Under the Council's conclusions, the annual fees are to be set at a level that promotes innovation and the competitiveness of European industry. In addition, limited translation requirements should lead to considerable cost savings for the European business sector. The translation issue is to be resolved in a special regulation.

Minister Björling added: "The EU patent will make it much easier and cheaper to protect innovations in the EU. This will give European industry better opportunities to compete on the global market," 

The Council conclusions also contain the main elements of a single European Patent Court that will try cases on both the EU patent and existing European patents. This is expected to bring about a considerable improvement to the current fragmented system where patent processes for one product have to be conducted - and paid for - separately in each individual Member State.

The Swedish Minister for Justice, Beatrice Ask, commented: "Establishing an EU patent and a single European Patent Court is the single most important measure for promoting innovation in Europe."

The approval of the European Court of Justice is needed for the EU patent initiative to be put in motion. The Court has not yet delivered an opinion.

Patents in the EU single market

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