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Council of Ministers debate European Patent

Competitiveness ministers today discussed the enhanced cooperation on a European-wide patent. The patent idea has been at the centre of a political war between Europes industry representatives and politicians for the past 50 years. The enhanced cooperation has brought it closer than ever to reality. But just this week the European Court of Justice (ECJ) decided there could be conflicts with international patent jurisdiction. Europes governments gathered in Brussels today to debate how the patent can be moved forward, and our Brussels correspondent Tania Rabesandratana was live at the scene. This is her live post from the proceedings.

Webcast live HERE

11.30 At Council in Brussels, waiting for public debate on unitary patent. Place is buzzing today, most journos here for foreign affairs meeting.
11.50 Public debate starting very late; five journos following in Council press room.
11.55 Michel Barnier, commissioner for internal market, convinced that “this proposal is politically acceptable for all and economically necessary for businesses.” Hopes all Member States will join.
Member states representatives speak in favour of enhanced cooperation: Sweden, Germany, UK
12.06 Belgium: “This is a historical day (…). I cant think of one single reason to postpone this decision.” Enhanced cooperation necessary for a credible Europe.
Spain refers to Chronicle of a Death Foretold: The European Court of Justice signed up and certified the foretold death of this discriminatory patent. This is a dangerous venturing outside the terms of the Treaties and primary law.
What would be the legal basis for the [non-EU] European Patent Office to grant this patent? This would have to be approved unanimously.
On jurisdiction: youre making things up as you go along and weakening the foundations of this proposal.
Some member states like the UK mentioned that they could leave the enhanced cooperation. What will happen if some countries abandon ship?
This is like a car without wheels – youre going nowhere. We urge you to postpone this decision. The patent must be born robust.
12.25 Luxembourg: “Youre not going to die.” In favour of small steps approach.
12.28 Italy: Weve never questioned the importance of the European patent. Principle of non-discrimination is enshrined in the Treaty.
Greece, Czech Republic, France praise efforts of Belgian and Hungarian presidency.
12.38 France: “This is not a decision against Spain and Italy. We need [both countries] with us.”
Ireland, Romania, Malta, Slovenia, Denmark, Portugal all speak in favour
12.51 Slovakia: had reservations already on the implementation of the cooperation; will study opinion of European Court of Justice.
12.58 Netherlands last country to speak at public debate on patent enhanced cooperation: “We have to keep going.”
Spain and Italy remain only two countries against enhanced cooperation out of 27.
12.59 Councils legal services: The Court of Justices ruling does not say that enhanced cooperation would be a problem. It says the patent court would normally fall under national jurisdiction but this does not mean a community court is impossible or undesirable. The draft agreement on the patent court has to be revisited, but it doesnt affect enhanced cooperation.
13.08 Internal Commissioner Michel Barnier: “all points of view are respectable.” Any EU language can be used for translation, so there is no discrimination.
There will be manual translations until electronic translations have a sufficient quality. These will make life easier for the whole EU linguistic diversity, not only the patent.
13.15 Spain: Commission says English-only system is discriminatory, so why is three-language system not discriminatory?
Were not making progress because were not addressing the fundamental questions.
13.22 Spain is angry: “the Commission has no idea whatsoever.” Says the Court of Justice ruling torpedoed the whole concept.
13.30 Hungarian minister wraps-up the debate: “Unitary patent will lift our innovative capacity.”
13.31 Cameras are off. Public debate is closed. Off to the press conference now
13.55 Commissioner Barnier: On 30 March the Commission will submit two proposals, one on the language regime, the other on the jurisdiction issue.
14.05 Enhanced cooperation on unitary patent is adopted. Commissioner Barnier is confident, Hungarian minister says its a historic moment.