Ministers fail to compromise on community patent

Internal Market Ministers failed to lift the deadlock over the community patent during their extraordinary Council on 20 December. The proposal for an EU-wide patent has been blocked because of the Member States’ struggling over the linguistic arrangements of the Commission’s proposals.

The Laeken Summit called for this special internal market ministers session in order to reach an agreement on the community patent before the end of 2001.

The ministers could not agree on a new compromise put forward by the Belgian Presidency. Under this new proposal, an applicant for a patent would be able to choose whether the claims should be issued in either English, French or German, plus the applicant’s mother tongue. A summary would be published in all 11 EU languages.

Although some countries softened their positions and seemed to be willing to follow the Belgian proposal, France, Germany and Portugal refused to give in to the compromise.


The chairman of the industry Council meeting, Belgian economics minister Charles Picqué said progress had been made, but this was denied by single market Commissioner Bolkestein.


The European Commission proposed a draft directive on the creation of an EU wide patent 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 EU or applying for a national patent via their national patent offices. The Community patent would co-exist with 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.


It will now be up to the Spanish government to try and find a compromise in this difficult dossier.


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