Fate of unitary patent in hands of June summit
By Sophie Mosca | Thursday 31 May 2012
As expected (see
4432), the Competitiveness Council took note once more, on 30 May, of its failure to bring negotiations on the European unitary patent to a successful conclusion. The question of the location of the seat of the central division of the unified patent court has held up the negotiations for nearly six months (Competitiveness Council of 5 December 2011). It will now be settled by the heads of state and government, at the summit on 28-29 June. The idea of other candidacies is also becoming more precise.
The legislative package (under enhanced cooperation) on the unitary patent contains three elements: a draft regulation setting up a unitary patent (co-decision), another establishing translation arrangements and a draft intergovernmental agreement establishing the patent court system. The negotiations have stumbled on the latter aspect.
London, Munich and Paris were candidates. The fact that the Paris candidacy was proposed by the Polish EU Presidency irritated the ‘losers’. Calls to reason by Internal Market Commissioner Michel Barnier and Commission President José Manuel Barroso, as well as efforts by the Danish EU Presidency have been unsuccessful to date. Pressure by the informal European Council, on 30 January, which set June as the deadline for working out an agreement, has also failed to produce an impact.
Ole Sohn, Denmark’s minister for enterprises and growth who chaired the Council, said he regretted “this failure to work out an agreement on this last element of the package,” but he is still “optimistic and will try to ensure success under the Danish Presidency. Sometimes the process has to be given more time”.
For Barnier, “we have no more time to waste. This is a symbolic project that European companies have been awaiting for 30 years so as to be on a level playing field with the Americans and Chinese. I hope that it will be resolved by the time of the June summit”.
This settlement at summit level of a dispute over a seat is reminiscent of the battle over the seat of the European Food Safety Authority. Parma ended up being chosen after Italy fought tooth and nail at the EU summit of 13 December 2003.
Italy proposed, in February, its candidacy for the seat of the central division of the unitary patent court system as a way of breaking the stalemate. Although its proposal was initially rejected because it was presented after the deadline of 4 December 2011 for the submission of candidacies, it has come back to the fore. “The Netherlands did the same recently, stressing that it did not wish to make the situation worse, but to propose The Hague as a candidate in order to calm the debate,” an informed source told