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PATENT LAW

Spain remains outside EU’s proposed patent plan

Top European Court lawyer rules against Spain, Italy on language issue

Lucía Abellán

The European Union on Tuesday came closer to developing an EU-wide patent when lawmakers in parliament voted to cut costs in protecting inventions by having patents recognized in all member states.

The new patent plan could take effect on January 1, 2014, but both Spain and Italy have rejected the scheme because the proposal stipulates the official languages for patents as English, French and German. The two nations have taken their complaints to the European Court of Justice (ECJ), which is expected to officially rule on the matter next year.

But on Tuesday in Luxembourg, Yves Bot, an advocate general for Europe’s top court rejected Spanish and Italian arguments in a non-binding opinion. While they are not required to agree with Bot, the ECJ’s justices usually follow the recommendations of the court’s advocates general.

From 2014, people in any of the 25 of the 27 nations that have approved the scheme — excluding Spain and Italy — wanting to register an invention will have to apply for a patent at the European Patents Office, which is located in Munich.

Under this new plan, patents will cost about 5,000 euros — down significantly from the continent-wide average of 36,000 euros. Nearly two-thirds of that amount went into translations.

“We hope that Spain and Italy will join this new regime as soon as possible so that protection will be valid among the 27 member states,” said Michel Barnier, the EU commissioner responsible for internal market and services.

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