Danes support EU patent court in referendum
With a clear 'yes', the Danes have voted to join the EU's Unified Patent Court. According to DR television news, 33.7% of Danes supported the patent court, 20.2% voted against, and 44.2% decided not to vote.
As Denmark has an EU opt-out on Justice and home affairs, the country needed either 80% backing by parliament parties, or a referendum, to become part of the patent court.
In December 2013, negotiations between the pro-EU Danish government and Eurosceptic parties, such as the Danish People's Party, collapsed, and Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt announced the referendum, which political experts deemed "too technical and an issue not suitable for a referendum".
Novozymes, a Danish biotech company which leads patent application submissions in its industry, welcomed the news. With more than 7,000 patents and an annual R&D spend of 13% of turnover, Novozymes is highly dependent on patent protection, explained Thomas Stenfeldt Batchelor, vice president for Intellectual Property at Novozymes.
"Being able to protect our intellectual property is simply crucial to us," Batchelor told EurActiv. "The fact that Denmark now joins the EU-patent, will make it easier to file for our patents and to protect our patents when needed – and in this way joining the EU-patent helps us protect our innovation. It’s a good day".
A common European court is supposed to make patent applications easier and cheaper within the EU, as companies would only have to apply in one place, instead of several EU countries. It is thought that such an arrangement would boost Europe’s competitiveness against other world regions.
After 30 years of discussions and disputes over languages and the location of the new patent court, EU leaders finally came to an agreement in June 2012, during the Danish presidency of the EU. According to the compromise, the court will be set up in Paris, with two departments - in Munich and London.
All EU countries signed up, except for Croatia, Poland and Spain.
Denmark obtained four opt-outs from the Maastricht Treaty following the treaty's initial rejection in a 1992 referendum.
The opt-outs are outlined in the Edinburgh Agreement and concern the Monetary Union (EMU), Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP), Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) and the Citizenship of the European Union.
With these opt-outs, the Danes accepted the treaty in a second referendum held in 1993. In 2000, Danes rejected a referendum on adopting the euro.
- June 2014: Unified Patent Court to be set up in Paris