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EU Chiefs Reach Agreement on Patent System, Van Rompuy Says

European Union leaders cleared the final hurdle to an agreement on a common patent system, paving the way for improved and cheaper enforcement of intellectual-property rights.

“After 30 years of discussions on a European patent, we reached an agreement on the last outstanding issue, the seat of the Unified Patent Court,” EU President Herman Van Rompuy said today in Brussels after a two-day summit of European leaders.

The U.K., France and Germany each had lobbied to be the host of the seat of the court. The final compromise splits the court among the three nations.

The seat of the court’s central division, along with the office of the court’s president, would be located in Paris, while other departments dealing in more specialized work will be based in London and Munich. The first president of the court should come from France, the leaders said.

“The stalemate has been broken and that is a good thing,” said Geert Glas, head of the intellectual-property practice at law firm Allen & Overy LLP. “With a central seat in Paris, the unitary court has a good chance to combine the best practices of the common-law -- U.K. -- and civil-law -- Germany -- traditions.”

Creating a lower-cost European patent is one of several reforms that could aid innovation and economic growth, EU Internal Market Commissioner Michel Barnier said on May 16. Under the current system, companies can pay as much as 18,000 euros ($22,600) for a patent valid in only 13 countries, including 10,000 euros for translation, according to the European Commission.

135,000 Patents

The number of patents filed in the EU lags far behind other parts of the world, Barnier said. Some 135,000 patents were filed with the European Patents Office in 2009, compared with 459,000 in the U.S., 348,000 in Japan and 315,000 in China.

The EU said today that the common system “will bring down patent litigation costs for businesses significantly.” The European Commission has calculated that, with the single court, litigation expenses incurred by European companies can be reduced by about 289 million euros a year, it said.

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