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More policy efforts needed on European patent system, says UEAPME

Today's European patent system should be seriously improved as it is hampering rather than promoting innovation in the EU, says UEAPME, the European small and medium sized enterprise (SME) employers' organisation.

The current system prevents SMEs from effectively protecting t...

Policy making and guidelines

Today's European patent system should be seriously improved as it is hampering rather than promoting innovation in the EU, says UEAPME, the European small and medium sized enterprise (SME) employers' organisation.

The current system prevents SMEs from effectively protecting their innovations in the EU as they can be subject to up to 31 different legal systems with ensuing high costs for translation and litigation, according to UEAPME.

'Patents are an essential instrument to preserve intellectual and industrial property rights. Favourable conditions for patent protection are therefore essential for small enterprises to develop and expand their business,' said Hans-Werner Müller, the Secretary General of UEAPME. 'The current European system, with its high costs and legal uncertainties, is far from guaranteeing these conditions.'

So, the organisation is calling on national and EU policy makers to create a fully-fledged European Community Patent, with a sound and simplified filing system, effective litigation procedures and a clear scope for action.

The European Commission's Internal Market Commissioner Charlie McCreevy is expected to present the results of a consultation on Europe's patent system with industry representatives at the end of November. Europe's current 'patchwork' system prevents companies from defending their patent rights effectively, Mr McCreevy told EU lawmakers on 28 September.

The idea of an EU-wide patent system dates back to the 1960s. Currently, patents can be awarded either on a national basis or through the European Patent Office (EPO) in Munich, which grants 'European Patents' with a single application and granting procedure. However, each Member State may still require that the European Patent is translated into its official language for it to be officially valid on their territory.

A patent application fee costs €1,000, whilst translating it into six languages costs about €15,000, according to some estimates.