* ECJ's advocate general dismisses Italy and Spain's case
* EU hopes to implement common patent in 2014
BRUSSELS Dec 11 The European Union took a step
closer to an EU-wide patent on Tuesday with lawmakers voting to
cut the cost of protecting inventions and a top adviser to
Europe's highest court rejecting a challenge to the new scheme.
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 a project first put forward in 1973 but
which was delayed by a series of disputes, including over where
to site the new patent office.
The European Parliament voted on Tuesday in favour of the
plan which will see a common patent in place on Jan. 1, 2014, if
the judges in the highest EU court dismiss objections by Spain
and Italy when they make a definitive ruling next year.
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.
"A common European patent is key to strengthening Europe's
competitiveness in a globalised world," said Swedish liberal
lawmaker Cecilia Wikstrom. "We must be able to compete with the
U.S., Japan and other developed countries when it comes to
commercialising innovations," she said.
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.
But in Luxembourg, Yves Bot, an advocate general in the
European Court of Justice, rejected their argument against the
scheme in a non-binding opinion on Tuesday.
He said the judges, who are expected to rule next year,
should reject the objections of Spain and Italy.
While they are not required to agree with Bot, the ECJ's
judges often follow the recommendations of the court's advocates
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.