The European Union has taken another step forward on the long road to introducing a unitary patent with member state diplomats today reaching agreement on fresh wording on the system’s draft legislation.
The agreement is aimed at forging a deal with MEPs who have been holding up progress since the summer because of discontent over the role that the European Court of Justice (ECJ) would have in the patent system.
MEPs have called an extraordinary meeting of the European Parliament’s legal affairs committee at 7pm today in Strasbourg to vote on the member state’s latest version of the legislation.
The patent system – to apply to 25 of the EU’s 27 countries because Italy and Spain refused to take part – has taken more than 30 years to realise but hopes that a breakthrough had been reached at the European Council summit on 29 June were swiftly dashed when MEPs reacted with dismay to a deal between leaders.
Leaders agreed to locate the new patent court’s central division in Paris, with smaller specialised offices in Munich and London. In return, they acquiesced to the UK’s desire to weaken significantly the role of the European Court of Justice (ECJ), boosting the authority of the patent court.
MEPs refused to back the compromise, saying that it went against previous agreements between the Parliament and the Council. Both sides must agree before the patent system can be set up.
It remains uncertain whether the agreement by member states today will be enough to satisfy MEPs. The clauses of the original text of the legislation, which would hand authority to the ECJ and were removed by leaders in June, have not been restored.
A Commission spokesperson said that the compromise text “ensures a harmonised protection of patents throughout the 25 participating member states”. If MEPs agree to the Council’s latest compromise text, the patent’s two regulations would be adopted on 21 December and an inter-governmental agreement, to create the patent court, would be signed on 18 February.
Ratification of this agreement is necessary before the unitary patent system can come into effect. The European Commission hopes that, if this timetable is adhered to, the first unitary patent would be granted in April 2014.