MEPs today endorsed a proposal to create a common EU patent. They voted 471 to 160, with 42 abstentions, in favour of a recommendation from the European Commission and 12 member states to set up the patent scheme using the ‘enhanced co-operation’ process.
The vote paves the way for the Council of Ministers to approve the decision in the coming weeks. The Commission is then expected to present two legislative proposals. One will establish the single patent and the other will set out rules on the patent’s languages.
Twelve countries signalled their intention to use the enhanced co-operation process after member states failed to reach unanimity on an EU-wide system in November.
Spain and Italy opposed the proposal because it limits the granting of new patents to only three languages, English, French and German. However, applicants would be able to choose to file applications in any official EU language. The Commission argues that the languages the EU patent is granted in should be limited to make it easy to use and to reduce the costs of applications.
It is only the second time that the enhanced co-operation procedure has been used. The first was in March last year, when ten countries agreed on a common system for divorce in cases where the partners come from different member states.
Using the procedure still needs the approval of a majority of member states. Ministers are expected to examine the proposal at a meeting of the competitiveness council on 10 March. If agreed, the patent would apply only in the 12 member states that have agreed to sign up to it, but other member states can join at any time.