Friday, 26 November 2010

Enhanced co-operation the key to EU patent?

It will be a bad day when I don't learn at least one new thing. Enhanced co-operation is a new one on me, but it's many years since I purported to teach EC law (and wrote a book on it to help myself get to grips with the subject - not always the best reason to write a book, but it worked for me). They have messed about with the treaties since then.

The story (reported by Euractiv, who seem to have a hazy grasp of what patents are all about, as some people might say about me, here) is that a group of Member States, including the UK because this is a matter in which our government is comfortable being more coommunitaire than some, has decided to find a way forward with the project senza Italy. The problem with the EU patent has always been connected to language, and at one stage Poland put the kybosh on the project because of the language issue. It was thought then that the Polish stance was terminal, but this thing keeps bouncing back -  Italy (with suport from Poland) was unhappy with French, German and English being the official languages. (Incidentally, Euroactiv is quite wrong to call these the official languages of the Union!) Even Spain seems to have overcome its objections, perhaps having made its point.

Commissioner Barnier has promised a proposal on enhanced co-operation in this area for the Competitiveness Council on 10 December. It's only the seocnd time the procedure has been used - the other being last July, when 14 countries got together to agree simplied divorce rules for couples of differnt nationalities. Then Italy was on the side of the angels: this time its minister, the magnificiently-named Signor Pizza, argues that it will undermine the internal market. I can see that divorce rules lack the ability to do that.

If it is agreed on the basis of enhanced co-operation, it will need 9 Member States to go ahead with it. Approbal by a qualified majority in Parliament and Council would be required, too, but only participating Member States would be allowed to vote in Coucil.

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