Rapporteur: ‘Italy is substantially isolated on patent issue’

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Although some amendments are required, the European Commission's proposal for a unitary patent is broadly acceptable to MEPs, according to European People's Party MEP Raffaele Baldassarre, the rapporteur in the European Parliament's legal affairs committee who will steer the proposals through the EU assembly.

Originating from Lecce, in Puglia, Raffaele Baldassarre is an appeal-court lawyer by training who steered Forza Italia to victory in 2004 as provincial secretary for the southern Italian district.

He is currently serving as an MEP in the centre-right European People's Party. 

He was speaking in his offices at the European Parliament to EURACTIV’s Jeremy Fleming.

To read a shortened version of this interview, please click here.

The European Parliament's committee for legal affairs discussed the controversial unitary patent idea – which has been formally challenged in the Luxembourg court by Spain and Italy – this week. What were its conclusions?

We have two main points to make. The first is that there is a problem with the lack of a mention of SMEs in the enhanced co-operation package. SMEs are fundamental to any future attempts to increase innovation and research capabilities in the EU and it is therefore very important that there should be some specific mention of them within the enhanced co-operation procedure for a unitary patent.

My recommendation will be that this shortcoming in the proposals can be met by including some form of specific reference to technology and financing targeted at SMEs.

The language issue is the most controversial, especially in the context of the court case. What were the committee's thoughts on this?

As far as the three-language solution that the Commission has proposed is concerned, the committee considered the statistics for patent applications put forward in the member states. These revealed that 90-95% of all patent applications are made in these three languages, of which the vast majority (77%) are in English. Even in Spain, 93% of all filing applications before the European Patent Office are in English.

The English language is therefore the most used of all the languages and is effectively the international language of trade. You simply cannot argue against that bold statistic. MEPs will back the proposals as they stand on this basis.

Your own government is opposing the proposals. Why?

The Italian government insists on its position of viewing the process of the enhanced co-operation as illegitimate in the context of the patent. However, the Italian government position is also quite nuanced. They would agree to an English-only solution [single language only] to the patent idea. The position of the Italian Socialists and the EPP representatives in the European Parliament is that of encouraging the introduction of an EU patent as the proposals stand.

The MEPs believe that in the end the Italians could enter the enhanced co-operation. One possible compromise would be for the three-language solution to be maintained but for English to be given some form of enhanced usage status. That would offer a solution that could offer genuine cost savings and at the same time offer validity for the patent throughout the EU.

Why do you think that the Italian government is opposed to a three-language solution, but in favour of an English-only one?

This issue is important, since ultimately the issue of language in patents ought not to be one of competition between European languages, the real competition is going to be that between European and Chinese patents, and it is only by using English language patents that we can truly provide a realistic front against that threat.

Should there be a pause in proceedings whilst the Spanish and Italian legal case works its way through the courts?

No, there are no conditions in place enabling the enhanced co-operation to be blocked whilst the legal action is pending. I have already explained to the Italian government that Italy is substantially isolated on this issue, especially considering the strong will of the European Parliament to find a solution. There are no time delays envisaged on the process of accepting the proposals in the Parliament.

What effect would the introduction of the patent without Italy have?

Italy will have to continue using a shadow system based on Italian patent regulations if it goes on, and I have already pointed out that there is a risk that Italian business will suffer from the enhanced co-operation.

Could there be a change of mind by the Italian government?

In Italy we say that it is never too late to change your mind. The government has chosen to take this path in the face of opposition from Confindustria, Commissioner Tajani and the Italian delegation of parliamentarians in Brussels, who all believe that it would be better to find a positive solution to the patent issue.

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