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E.C. acts to tackle patent laws


BRUSSELS, Belgium—The European Commission has issued a communication to member states to find out whether they support the creation of a unified Europe-side patent system to slash costs and compete with rival jurisdictions.

The Commission said that it believes the way forward could be to create a unified patent judiciary, with competence for litigation on European patents and future community patents.

Internal Market and Services Commissioner Charlie McCreevy said: "Patents are a driving force for promoting innovation, growth and competitiveness, but the single market for patents is still incomplete. In today's increasingly competitive global economy Europe cannot afford to lose ground in an area as crucial as patent policy. That is why I propose to have a fresh look at the various options and to work with the Council and the Parliament towards political consensus on real improvement of the patent system."

A European patent designating 13 countries is 11 times more expensive than a US patent and 13 times more expensive then a Japanese patent, pointed out the Commission.

Europe's current patent system is much more expensive than the U.S. and Japanese systems because currently different patents are required for each member state.

"The existing system of patent litigation in the European Union, with the risk of multiple patent litigation in several countries on the same patent issue, leads to unnecessary costs for all the parties involved and causes lack of legal certainty," it said.

The Commission launched a broad consultation on the future patent system last year.

"The results leave no doubt on the urgent need for action to provide a simple, cost-effective and high-quality patent system in Europe," said the Commission.

The latest Communication addresses various supporting measures for an improved patent system, such as patent quality, knowledge transfer and enforcement issues, said the E.C.

A separate Communication on Intellectual Property Rights is also planned for 2008, to complement the Patent Communication and address outstanding non-legislative and horizontal issues in all fields of intellectual property, added the commission.

The first attempt to sort out patents came under the Lisbon Strategy in the form of they the European Council's Common Political Approach adopted in 2003. But this was criticized by many because of high translation costs and what was regarded as excessive centralization of the proposed jurisdictional system, said the commission.