Put up or shut up on patents, bosses warn

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Series Details Vol.7, No.41, 8.11.01, p21
Publication Date 08/11/2001
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Date: 08/11/01

By Peter Chapman

Governments wrangling over an EU-wide patent system should either put up or shut up, EU bosses are warning.

The message from employers' lobby UNICE comes as the Belgian presidency tries to reach a compromise on controversial aspects of the planned system at the 26 November meeting of single market ministers. UNICE's head of company affairs, Jérôme Chauvin, said member states should deliver without further ado on the promises they made at last year's 'dotcom' summit in Lisbon or shut up until they are ready to agree. "We are disappointed by the attitude of member states. In Lisbon they made targets - they knew the price. We say, if they are not willing to make the investment, put it in the drawer."

The community patent system was meant to make it cheaper and easier to register inventions and at the same time offer more legal certainty than the current European system administered by the Munich-based European Patent Office (EPO). Unlike EPO patents, which can be challenged from one country to another, the 'Community patents' would be granted automatic legal protection in every member state.

Chauvin said governments had recently done more to protect their national interests than agree a new system. They have argued over the language to be used - even though industry claims the use of only English, German and French would not be a problem for inventors.

They have also called for bolstered roles for existing national patent offices, and they have argued over the need for a central tribunal to hear disputes. The Belgian attempt to bridge the gap would do little to solve problems, he claimed. It would be better to temporarily halt talks on the subject rather than accept a half-baked solution.

Brussels favours allowing more languages and allowing local patent offices to examine applications - contradicting the Commission proposal which envisaged this role for the European Patent Office.

Governments wrangling over an EU-wide patent system should either put up or shut up, EU bosses are warning.

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