10 December 2010

Break Trough in the EU Patent Debate Today? (updated)

It was expected that today's EU Competitive Council Meeting (see press release), headed by Mr Vincent Van Quickenborne, would be crucial to the plans of about 10 to 12 EU member states to impelement a smaller EU patent by means of enhanced cooperation, as provided by the Lisbon Treaty to reach an agreement despite of blocking members. Today, the 3057th Competitive Council Meeting discussed that matter in a public debate:

According to the following twitter coverage on @EUCouncilPress, , it appears that there has happened some sort of "break through", whereas it is still doubtful what kind of break throuh (in terms of votes for qualified majority) there actually was, since - as far as I understand the voting mechanism - the frequently mentioned 10 or 12 supporting countries would not be enough for qualified majority:

"FINALLY the breakthrough after 40 years: a unified EU patent. The icing on the cake. We did it" (see here)

@ on : "Today's result is the cherry on the cake of the Belgian Presidency of the " " (see here)

"Happily surprised by the strong support from many countries which did not sign up yet. " (see here).

Shortly before the meeting, a joint letter of ten countries (DK, EE, FI, FR, DE, LT, LU, NL, SI, SE) and a letter from the UK asked the European Commission to consider enhanced cooperation, while in another letter Messrs José Luis Zapatero and Silvio Berlusconi, Prime Ministers of Spain and Italy, strongly opposed to such plans ("We insist that enhanced co-operation should only be applied as a last resort mechanism, a requirement that is not met in the negotiations concerning the patent’s language regime") and suggested to at least wait until the opinion of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) on the Unified Patent Litigation System (EEUPC) is issued. This is a clever move, since Advocate General Juliane Kokott already raised doubts over the suggested three-language regime for a common EU Patent Court in her Statement of Position in July this year (see also here and here).

The start of today's debate was not so easy, as Mr Van Quickenborne tweeted here ("Microphones failed ...") and here ("... glass of water knocked over in the Spanish translation booth"). Honi soit qui mal y pense!

Anyway, I hope to be able to report soon on the kind of break through that is currently celebrated in Brussels.

UPDATE: In fact, those people celebrating the big success have to have better information than I have, since the known 11 supporting countries (DE, FR, UK, NL, SE, DK, FI, LT, SI, EE, LU), maybe plus Austria and Ireland that also support the enhance cooperation initiative, only represent 59,9% of the total EU population and 160 votes, whereas a qualified majority requires 62% of the EU population and 255 (of 345) votes. That is, another 95 votes needed.

On the other hand side, the opposing party only needs 35 more votes, since Spain and Italy already provide 56 votes of the 91 blocking votes. It thus will be crucial what countries like Poland (27 votes), Romania (14 votes), Greece, Portugal, Belgium, the Check Republic, or Hungary (12 votes) think.