Business warns single patent too expensive

European Patent Office sign, Munich. [Wikimedia]

National patent offices are attempting to set the price of the unitary European patent at a level too high to attract European companies to use it, European business representatives have warned.

The new patent – which has been approved by all EU member states, except for Italy and Spain – must be ratified in national legislation before new patents can be issued. But rules affecting the new courts, and the cost of registering and renewing patents, are still under discussion. Costs associated with the new patent will play a key role in determining whether companies use it.

The price issue is currently being considered by a select committee of the European Patent Office, which consists of representatives from member states, who are currently considering whether the cost of the new patent should be roughly equivalent to registering between three and eight separate patents within EU member states, which is what companies generally do now.

High cost patent will price out users

But business representatives familiar with ongoing discussions told EURACTIV that the committee is pushing to set the price high, using eight registrations as a benchmark, to protect the business of patent registration in the individual member states.

“At the moment there, is a kind of conflict of interest insofar as the members of the select committee of the European Patent Office who are trying to agree the price consist of many representatives from the national patent offices,” said one senior patents specialist who preferred to remain anonymous.

“These have a vested interest in setting a price that will maintain the level of registrations within the national patent offices,” the source explained.

“We think that without making these instruments accessible to SMEs in Europe we will have difficulty recovering and innovating in Europe,” said Markus Beyrer, BusinessEurope’s director-general.

Another source close to the committee, who preferred to remain anonymous, acknowledged that there is a “debate going on over where to set the price, and there are differences of opinion”.

Agreement on costs to come next year

The committee is set to agree on the cost by the end of the first quarter of 2015, at around the same time that rules affecting the new patent court should be agreed.

The EU patent court will be shared between Paris, London and Munich. The court’s central division is located in the French capital, Munich deals with applications relating to mechanical engineeering, and the UK is responsible for patents concerned with pharmaceuticals and chemistry.

Beyrer said that the introduction of a new patent, along with a host of issues relating to copyright in the digital economy, pressed the case for Europe to have a key intellectual property strategy champion in a position to influence the Commission President.

“This is what happens in the US and Japan, with the benefit that it remains high on their agendas, and would go some way to helping Europe securing an innovative business environment,” Beyrer said.

EU leaders forged a compromise on a common European patent at a summit in June 2012, ending a long-running dispute over the proposal that would make it easier and less costly to register products.

National leaders agreed to divide the functions of the European patent court between the three countries eager to host it – France, Germany and Britain.

End of first quarter 2015: Price of registration/renewal of first unitary European patents to be agreed. 

European Institutions

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