European business worried over Community patent

Business voices UNICE and AmCham state the Council is losing track over a compromise on an EU-wide patent and propose it stick to the original Commission proposal. The Council and Parliament will try to agree on the proposal on 26 and 27 November respectively.

Main outstanding issues in the proposal on an EU-wide patent are

  • One or more official languages;
  • A centralised or decentralised court system to decide on disputes over a Community patent;
  • Possible inclusion of a so-called “utility-model”. A patent under the utility-model would give the owner a patent for the period of 10 years without the usual investigations.


TheUnion of Industrial and Employers' Confederations of Europe (UNICE)would prefer no Community patent to one that "would not create the innovative framework needed by inventors in Europe". UNICE concludes Member States would do then better to concentrate on the improvement of the Munich European Patent system.

TheEU Committee of the American Chamber of Commercestates that "political pressures" have led to compromises to the original Commission proposal that would "undermine the usefulness of the Community Patent". It says translations into all EU languages would be "prohibitively expensive", a decentralised court system would encourage "forum shopping" and the utility-system would create a "second class patent".

TheEuropean Parliament Committeepreparing the Parliamentary plenary position proposes to approve the Commission proposal, albeit with two main amendments:

  • The sole official language of the European Patent Office should be English;
  • The Commission and Council should make sure that steps are taken to ensure that the national patent offices can continue to play an important role in the processing of the Community patent.


The European Commission proposed a draft directive on the creation of an EU wide patent with a draft Directive on 1 August 2000. Under the proposed system, companies and inventors would have the choice of either obtaining a single EU-wide patent that is valid throughout the European Union or applying for a national patent via their national patent offices. The Community patent would co-exist with the the national and current European patent systems. The high cost of patenting in Europe is often seen as one of the reasons why Europe is lagging behind the US and Japan in the development of the knowledge-based economy.



  • Final agreement in Council expected on 26 November 2001;
  • Agreement in Parliamentary Committee expected on 27 November 2001;
  • Belgian Presidency conference on community patents on 29 November 2001;
  • European Parliament plenary vote 10 December 2001.


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