Daniel Ritort

European Union approved a single patent scheme

European Patent Office headquarters

European Patent Office headquarters

European Parliament has voted to introduce a unified patent system. There would also be a unified patent-court system.

But Spain and Italy continue to oppose the change, because they say the new regime would discriminate against Spanish and Italian languages.

The new patent system would allow inventors to register their innovation with a single European Union authority rather than in each of its 27 member states, and is designed to save time and money. The move is due to be introduced in 2014.

The new rules would say applications and approvals need only to be made available in one of three languages: English, French and German. At present, applicants are spending thousands of Euros translating their paperwork into each country’s native language.

Italy and Spain suggested that as a result commercial trade in innovative products will be favored for undertakings which work in German, English or French. But a senior adviser to the European Court of Justice has advised that it reject their plea. A panel of judges has still to consider the case.

Eurochambres, an organization that represents European Union countries’ chambers of commerce, called the vote in favor of the scheme a breakthrough. It said in a statement that it will significantly reduce administrative burdens and boost European innovation.

However, April, a French free software-advocacy group, has warned the move could open the door to software-patent litigation on a scale recently seen in the United States.

It said the European Patent Office has shown itself willing to grant thousands of software patents, and it worries the European Union could end up with a system in which appeals against such judgments are decided according to the European Patent Office’s own rules.

Jeane Tadeusz, spokeswoman at April, said European Parliament voted in favor of a legally uncertain system that does not provide any checks and balances against threats to innovation such as software patents.

She also added the European Patent Office will gain amazing powers, even though its governance has been highly criticized, especially with regard to its practice of granting software patents, against the letter and the spirit of European patent law.

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