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EU lawmakers consent to common patent system

The European Parliament [official website] on Tuesday agreed to the establishment of a common patent system [press release] despite lack of accord from Spain and Italy. EU member states have attempted to establish a uniform patent system for several years, but a unanimous vote was unobtainable due to disapproval from a few member countries. The Lisbon Treaty [text] generally requires a unanimous vote from EU member states, but the "enhanced co-operation" [EU backgrounder] provision allows groups of member states to adopt new common rules when unanimity is difficult to achieve. Lawmakers argue that a uniform patent system is necessary [Bloomberg report] to keep European nations competitive with global rivals like China by lowering patent costs for small businesses in particular. Spain and Italy refuse to participate [BBC report] because Internal Market Commissioner Michel Barnier [official website] insists on using English, French and German as the sole official languages of EU patents. The Council of Competitiveness Ministers [official website] is expected to adopt the decision authorizing "enhanced cooperation" in March. The European Commission [official website] will then submit its legislative proposals.

The EU has applied the "enhanced co-operation" provision in only one other resolution. In January 2010, the EU employed the provision to enable some EU countries to work together to create uniform marriage laws [JURIST report] for mixed-nationality couples on the grounds that cross-border divorces are often problematic. The measure, supported by 10 countries [BBC report], was passed [press release] under enhanced-cooperation.

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About Paper Chase

Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

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