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New pan-EU patent plan will be adopted by 25 of EU's 27 countries, says Commission

All but two EU countries will participate in a scaled-down European patent plan, the European Commission has said. The stalled process will be adopted by every EU country except Italy and Spain, a spokeswoman told OUT-LAW.COM.

The European Parliament yesterday backed the plan, which is designed to break a decades-old deadlock on translation costs for EU patents.

The current EU patent system demands that translations be made into the official language of every country in which patent protection is sought. The cost of a patent covering all of the EU is estimated at being 10 times that of one covering all of the US.

After another attempt at solving the language problem failed last summer 12 EU countries including the UK sought to use a relatively new EU structure to pass a more limited plan. The 'enhanced co-operation mechanism' allows a group of EU nations to use EU government bodies to create a system which any other country can opt in to.

A spokeswoman for Internal Market and Services Commissioner Michel Barnier told OUT-LAW.COM that 25 of the EU's 27 countries have now said they will opt in to the scheme.

"Everyone apart from Italy and Spain have expressed an interest in joining," said the spokeswoman. She said the countries had signalled their intention to the Commission to join gradually since the scheme was given member states' approval in December.

The Council of Competitiveness Ministers, which gave the proposal the green light in December, will re-confirm their support on 10 March, she said. The Commission will then draw up specific plans which must then receive the support of the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers.

The spokeswoman said that many of the points that a specific plan will contain have already been agreed and that the process should be relatively fast, but that it will still take "a few months".

The proposal would allow a patent examined and granted in English, French or German to have effect in any of the countries in the scheme. If a country's own language is not one of those three the scheme will cover the cost of translation into one of those three languages.

The countries which proposed the scheme are the UK, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Lithuania, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Poland, Slovenia and Sweden.

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