On 14 February, the EU’s Council requested the European Parliament’s consent for enhanced cooperation for the unitary patent system in the EU, with the participation of 25 member states. After more than a decade of stalled negotiations, this step brought the idea of the Unitary European Patent to close completion. This is one of the first examples of enhanced cooperation in the EU.
After the Hungarian Presidency’s successful mediation, the Education, Youth, Culture, and Sports Council approved the draft regulation as a non-debatable item on the agenda of its meeting on 14 February. The proposed law would authorise a group of member states to engage in enhanced cooperation, over the Unitary European Patent. The EU’s new patent regime expected to be more cost-efficient, simple, and stronger for legal security, and would improve the EU’s competitiveness, by promoting scientific and technological progress.
Back in December 2010, twelve member states requested the Commission to propose enhanced cooperation, as the Council’s meeting failed to achieve a unanimous agreement on the single patent’s translation regulations. Later, after further Council meetings and by means of the Hungarian Presidency’s mediation, another 13 member states declared their intention to join. Italy and Spain decided to opt out the enhanced cooperation, which was lamented by all member sates.
Consent of the European Parliament is necessary
Enhanced cooperation in a specific field, is subject to the authorised use of the EU’s institutions, procedures and mechanisms by at least 9 member states. With the right to join at a later stage left for other member states. Enhanced cooperation can only happen in a field, which is not restricted to the EU’s exclusive competence. (Intellectual property is closely related to the single market’s workings, a field within the EU’s divided competence.)
For enhanced cooperation, the acceptance of the Council’s authorisation is a major step. Cooperation can only start with the European Parliament’s consent. The issue was on the agenda of the Parliament’s plenary session on 14 February, where the Hungarian Presidency presented the Council’s position. If the European Parliament consents to the proposal at its session, the Competitiveness Council may formally adopt the decision which authorises enhanced cooperation.
Ms Győri: “No single market in patent terms”
Taking the floor in the Parliament’s debate, Minister of State for EU Affairs, Enikő Győri, expressed the Presidency’s appreciation to MEPs for constructively supporting the Presidency’s efforts to improve European patent conditions, and praised the Belgian Presidency’s work in this field. Ms Győri stressed that the Hungarian Presidency is keen on raising the EU’s competitiveness and supporting small and medium sized enterprises, particularly in innovation. A key means for this is the establishment of the Single European Patent. Ms Győri reminded the participants, that the lack of Single European Patent has caused European enterprises an estimated EUR 700-800 million extra expenses every year.
“Now we have no single market in patent terms”, Ms Győri said and regretted the deadlock of negotiations on translation regulations. European decision-makers are under great pressure to achieve progress as soon as possible, she added, given the already yawning innovation gap between the EU and the USA or Japan, and that emerging economies will soon catch up with them. Ms Győri said that the vast majority of member states consider that reinforced cooperation as the only way out right now and “they expect visible results within a reasonable period of time.”
Nobody be left out of the single patent’s benefits
At the end of her speech, delivered in English, Ms Győri addressed Spanish and Italian MEPs in their mother tongues. She pointed out that reinforced cooperation is a major step towards the ideal situation, where the patent extends to all countries and the entire territory of the EU. “No enterprise or individual be left out of the proposed single patent’s benefits, regardless of their member states of origin” the Hungarian Minister of State declared.
Commenting on the plenary debate, both Commissioner for Internal Market, Michel Barnier, and MEPs highly appreciated the Hungarian Presidency’s devoted work on the European patent. “According to parliamentary rapporteur, Klaus-Heiner Lehne, member of the European Peoples’ Party from Germany, the Presidency never spoke on the Council’s behalf at the European Parliament’s plenary session on Monday. Now, the Hungarian Presidency did so, which shows its commitment to the European Patent”, the Parliament’s rapporteur said.
Hungarian Presidency has paid special attention to language equality
In her concluding remarks, made in Hungarian in response to MEP comments, Enikő Győri reassured MEPs that the Hungarian Presidency has paid special attention to language equality. She reminded the participants that before taking over the Presidency, Hungary had a different opinion on the unitary patent, but changed its position after a “very serious dialogue” between the Government and business professionals. She admitted that the support of the European patent by only 25 out of the 27 member states, is by no means an ideal situation, but she also stressed that, “member states opting out reinforced cooperation will also benefit from the establishment of the Single European Patent.”