| BRUSSELS, June 29
BRUSSELS, June 29 EU leaders agreed on Friday to
introduce a single European patent, ending decades of dispute
with a deal that will cut costs for inventors and industry.
The scheme will end the fragmented system where it typically
costs an inventor up to 35,000 euros ($43,500) to protect an
idea throughout the European Union, and is an important part of
a growth drive for Europe's stagnating economy.
"After 30 years of discussion on the European patent, we
have reached an agreement on the last outstanding issue - the
seat of the unified patent court," Herman Van Rompuy, president
of the European Council, said after an EU leaders' summit.
A streamlined patent scheme had been held up by disagreement
between Germany, France and Britain over who should host the
court that will adjudicate in patent disputes.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois
Hollande and British Prime Minister David Cameron agreed on
Friday to split the court between three centres - Munich, Paris
and London, depending the type of patent.
"...the crisis finally made them realise it's a bit petty to
argue about languages and seats," said one EU official.
Registering a patent in the European Union is currently far
more expensive than in the United States, because a patent must
be taken out in many countries rather than with one EU agency.
"Instead of applying for a patent in 27 member states
(European businesses now) can apply in only one place," said
Helle Thorning-Schmidt, who as prime minister of Denmark, the
current holder of the EU presidency, helped to broker a deal.
The European Patent Office (EPO) estimates that a single
patent, which may now come in 2014, could cut the registration
costs by more than two-thirds.
As with many other policy issues in Europe, national pride
had hindered agreement.
Merkel had originally wanted the court to be in Munich.
Germany accounted for roughly 14 percent of all applications to
the European Patent Office in 2011, almost three times as many
as France and far ahead of Britain's 3 percent.
Under the compromise, the court's headquarters will be in
Paris, with some functions in London and Munich.
Anyone seeking to challenge an infringement of their patent
in life sciences, for example, will do so in London. Cases
concerning engineering and physics, on the other hand, will be
dealt with in Munich.
German inventors and industry, led by engineering giants
such as Siemens and Robert Bosch, applied to register more than
33,000 patents in 2010, compared to roughly 80 in Greece and
similar number in Portugal, according to the EPO.
Once in place, the single patent system will avoid the need
for inventors to register and defend their ideas in many
countries and languages.
Italy and Spain, however, have so far refused to back a deal
because the new regime stipulates the official languages for
patents as English, French and German. Italy may join later but
it is not clear if Spain will. They had wanted Italian and
Spanish included too.
($1 = 0.8047 euros)
(Editing by Rex Merrifield and Sebastian Moffett)