* ECJ's advocate general dismisses Italy and Spain's case
* EU hopes to implement common patent in 2014
BRUSSELS, Dec 11 Italy and Spain's challenge to
a common patent and a single court to defend property rights is
unfounded, a top adviser to Europe's highest court said, taking
the EU closer to cutting the cost of protecting inventions
Twenty-five of the EU's 27 industry ministers agreed on
Monday to allow inventors to register their idea with one EU
agency, signing off on an idea first put forward in 1973 but
which was delayed because of a series of disputes, including
over where to put the new patent office.
At a time when competition in new inventions is increasing,
not only from Silicon Valley but also from Asia, a single patent
is seen as encouraging innovation.
The current system makes the process 18 times more expensive
than in the United States and 60 times more than in China
because patents have to be registered separately in individual
EU countries - up to 27 times to cover the whole European Union.
Spain and Italy have so far refused to back the deal because
the new regime stipulates the official languages for patents as
English, French and German, so it will apply to 25 rather than
27 EU states initially.
Yves Bot, an advocate general in the Luxembourg-based court,
rejected their argument in a non-binding opinion on Tuesday,
before the court's judges rule next year.
"The court should reject all the pleas put forward by Spain
and Italy and, consequently, dismiss both actions," the court
said in a statement.
While Bot's opinion does not tie the hands of the judges,
they follow the recommendations of the advocate general in the
majority of cases.
The European Parliament is expected to approve the patent
system on Tuesday in Strasbourg. If the European Court of
Justice (ECJ) judges reject Rome's and Madrid's case, the patent
can come into force on Jan. 1, 2014.
An EU patent, which will still cost more than double the
U.S. level at about 5,000 euros ($6,500) on average, will not
revolutionise innovation in Europe overnight.
But the reform is good for business at a time when Americans
obtained four times as many patents as Europeans did in 2011.
Patents, which grant the exclusive legal right to develop
and exploit an idea for a limited period of time, are seen as
central to encouraging innovation by ensuring that innovators
can properly benefit from their efforts.