In a bid to bring down translation costs for European businesses and help them compete on the world market, the European Commission has suggested EU governments should accept patents in English, French or German.
On Thursday (1 July), the EU's internal market commissioner Michel Barnier said the current situation was "unacceptable."
"Europe cannot be competitive if it is 20 times more expensive than in the US to patent an invention," the Frenchman told journalists at a news conference in Brussels.
The commission estimates that companies or inventors wishing to register their patent in 13 EU member states, for example, can pay up to €20,000 due to the huge translation costs. This compares to €1,850 in the US to register a patent.
By sticking to just three languages, Mr Barnier said the proposal would reduce translation costs from €14,000 to €700, bringing the overall cost of an EU-wide patent to €6,200.
The Belgian EU presidency, which starts today, has also declared that securing a solution to the long-standing issue is one of its goals for the next six months, but it is unclear whether the opposing capitals will back down.
If not, a collection of nine or more states could decide to push ahead by themselves.
European business organisation Eurochambres welcomed the commission's draft regulation.
"Heads of state can repeat their determination to create growth and jobs as often as they like, but it is specific measures like the EU patent that will really make a difference for our entrepreneurs and innovators," said Arnaldo Abruzzini, the organisation's secretary general.