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European Union

European patent scheme approved by legislators

EU lawmakers have finally given the green light to a unified European patent scheme. It will make it easier and much cheaper for companies to file patents that could be accepted outside their own countries.

The EU executive's plan to introduce a simpler and far less expensive patent scheme on Tuesday cleared the final political hurdle, with the European Parliament in Strasbourg approving the plan which had been at the center of tough negotiations for many years.

"For 40 years, we had been looking for a European patent for the economy," EU Market regulation Commissioner Michel Barnier said after the vote. "At a time of crisis, the scheme is good news and a real success for competitiveness, growth and jobs."

It will enable companies and private individuals in the EU to protect their patents in several countries of the bloc at the same time by filing just one unified application. Up to now, inventors had to register their patents in each country individually, which came at a hefty cost.

Two taking issue

According to estimates by the European Commission, an EU-wide patent will in the future cost applicants some 5,000 euros ($6,480), down from the current price 36,000 euros, which is higher because of translation costs and other fees. The unified patent law will come into effect in 2014.

EU governments that already approved the bill earlier this week had argued that pushing ahead with the scheme was key to reviving growth and encouraging business innovation, with Germany standing to profit most in line with the total number of patents filed by member countries each year.

Italy and Spain, however, took the scheme to the European Court of Justice, criticizing the fact that only English, French and German would be the official patent languages. While the judges at the Luxembourg-based court will have the final say, Advocate General Yves Bot already found that EU governments did not violate any relevant stipulations of cooperation among EU member countries. The judges generally follow Bot's advice.

German Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger said the new patent system would remove a lot of red tape and save enormous costs.

hg/dr (dpa, dapd)