The European Commission will put forward plans on Wednesday for a Community patent that will reduce the cost of obtaining protection for intellectual property in Europe. The new system, which would come into force by the end of 2001, has been designed to encourage small and medium sized companies to profit from new inventions, thus spurring job creation. The European Patent Office (EPO) in Munich, Germany, currently grants European patents, but the process is costly and essentially a collection of national patents designated by the applicant. European patents cost 30000 euro, which is about three or four times higher than in the USA or Japan. Some 39 per cent of the cost is taken up by translation. In response to complaints that the cost of obtaining an EU-wide patent is too high, EU leaders agreed at the Lisbon summit in March that introducing a new, cheaper system was a priority. The new Community patent will make savings principally on translation costs. To have pan-European coverage, a patent must currently be translated into the 11 official EU languages. The proposals being tabled by the Commission won't require translation beyond the three official languages of the European Patent Office - English, French and German. National patents will continue to exist and inventors can chose between the two. The Commission is also proposing that the European Court of Justice support the new patent, by taking over the dispute procedure from national courts where procedures vary throughout the EU. Internal Market Commissioner Frits Bolkestein will outline the full set of proposals to the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Wednesday 5 July.