The long path to a standardized European patent
Globalization quickly covers over economic weaknesses. One of Europe's weaknesses is the fact that patent costs are too high when compared internationally. Therefore, in future innovations should become more easily and inexpensively protected with an EU patent. Following successful negotiations regarding European patents with a standardized effect, twelve of the 27 EU Member States decided to suggest to the EU Commission that the process of so-called reinforced cooperation is introduced. This should prevent a blockade by the individual states.
There is an underlying argument regarding in which languages a patent can be applied for, and into which languages of the Member States it must be translated. Here it must be considered that it is principally the translation costs that currently make patent protection disproportionately expensive in multilingual Europe.
As a result, the Commission has introduced the procedure for enhanced cooperation regarding the EU patent. The 13 additional Member States then subscribed to this decision. Italy and Spain remain involved with the negotiations, however without contributing to the enhanced procedure and without voting rights. Meanwhile, two regulations are pending a decision by the sovereign territories of the 25 involved Member States. The first regulation governs the standardized patent protection, while the second governs the applicable translation regulations. On 27 June 2011 the Council of Ministers passed both regulations. Now the involved states and the EU Parliament must reach an agreement.
The patent application should take place via the European Patent Office (EPO) as before. An applied for EU patent should provide a standardized level of protection in each of the 25 involved EU States. However, in the case of an application for an EU patent there is no longer the need for registration in each of the individual states as before. For the patent holder this would mean that the translation and administration costs in 25 EU States are no longer necessary. The EU Commission is promising a reduction in patent costs from the current 32,000 Euros for the 27 EU States to 680 Euros for the 25 involved EU members. According to information from the Commission it will take a transition period of several years for it become quite so inexpensive, with costs initially set to fall to 2,500 Euros. By way of comparison, the Commission cites the US patent costs as being 1,850 Euros.
The issue of standardized patent legislation is still to be conclusively settled. EU law cannot be simply interpreted in this regard. The reason for this is that the EPO is not an EU institution, but rather an inter-state institution of the European Patent Organization, with which not only the 27 EU Member States are involved, but also eleven additional European countries.