To answer the above question right away, I do not hope so because otherwise the future of the European Community/Union, the great idealistic and visionary European project, would lie in ruins already. As a patent professional and keen enthusiast of the European idea, please allow me to share some personal comments based on the findings of my earlier posting on the Deficiencies of the EU Legislative Process for Implementing a Unified Patent Infrastructure, namely

  • ignorance as to users and experts and their (mostly) well-founded observations;
  • a striking lack of transparency preventing public involvement;
  • an information policy that disguises more than it discloses; and
  • national egoisms, inappropriate horse-trading and power games.

As already expressed earlier, I think that these frightening mechanisms and structural deficiencies of the European policy-making process may endanger stability and acceptance of and confidence in the European Union as a whole. As none of those features is adequate for a democratic legislation process in a cooperating Europe, the conclusion might be that Europe’s democracy is in danger. This, apparently, is at least the opinion of Mr Martin Schultz, President of the European Parliament, who recently demanded that a “restart” of European democracy is required, as “the Union must make the decision-making process more transparent so that a genuine European public sphere can emerge”. Well roared, lion!

Of course, national interest always played a prominent role in the turbulent history of the European Union (official version) and the present issue is another striking proof for the deficiencies of the EU policy-making process, since complicated substantive arguments as to the merits have been dismissed at a certain point and a political question became decisive for the whole project. It thus is no surprise that the most promising hosting cities are blocking each other, as has been observed by (“few other EU countries are happy with a Munich seat”, “Britain lacks goodwill or allies“, and “French inflexibility has been damaging“), while the diplomatic fight for a “solution” is not conducive to the real issue.

After the Competitiveness Council meeting of 30/31 May 2012 (see reports here and here) postponed the seat issue until the European Council meeting on 28/29 June 2012, the matter has finally reached the top flight of EU decision-making (see here). At this point, the national hunting instincts fully awake as winning the seat of the Central Division would be a tremendous political victory for the respective government and an enormous economical boost (see estimate as to the financial benefits for the hosting city/country).

The seat issue thus is a perfect pledge and leverage for other important negotiations such as the measures to take for stemming the financial crisis. It can easily be imagined that in the end Paris or Munich will be awarded with the seat only to soothe François Hollande’s socialist post-election reform impetus or Angela Merkel’s strict saving agenda, respectively. In any case, the patent issue will only be a side aspect as fire-fighting the financial crisis will bind most resources. We have already outlined in this posting what can be expected from the European Council meeting on 28/29 June 2012 as the probably final attempt to reach an agreement on the EU Patent Court.

Whatever will happen at the coming European Council meeting, it is near to impossible that the measures suggested to end the patent (and the financial?) crisis will be much more than a cowardly compromise which will probably not overcome substantive criticism and reach a well-accepted solution – maybe except of the country receiving the seat of the Central Division in return to concessions elsewhere.

A truly European solution, however, would look different. It is a fact realized by an increasingly number of politicians (and citizens?) that Europe is not yet sufficiently unified and Europe’s leaders are not yet “European” enough to overcome antiquated behavioral patterns from the era of nationalism in order to shape a politically, socially and economically stable Europe and, as a consequence, an efficient patent infrastructure serving its users.

Just as a brief reminder, the European Union is much more than a merely economical community for creating a single market and improving competitiveness that degenerated over the years to a self-service store for national interests. It is a historically unique (peace) project started after World War II by some brave and visionary politicians like Jean Monet, Robert Schuman, Konrad Adenauer, or Alcide de Gasperi, who learned the right lessons from last century’s ultimate European catastrophy and began to realize their truly idealistic vision of a united Europe based on the principles of Roman law and Attic democracy. Based on theses roots, a territory of peace and prosperity has been created on the European continent that has not been seen since the Frankish Empire of Charlemagne (742 – 814). No nation (and particularly not Germany) should give up this heritage for some tiny financial advantageous as the drawbacks would be severe.

But there is hope that the present crisis may help to recognize that the European Union cannot anymore be run by a more or less toothless EU Commission while the real power is lying at the national governments that mostly follow their own agendas. We do not need to go as far as former Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhovstadt, who tried to revitalize in an award-winning and much discussed book the old idea of the United States of Europe after the frustrating no-votes of France and the Netherlands against the  European Constitution in 2005 (further reading here and here), but the only solution appears to be to dare more European integration, not less, as German Chancellor Angela Merkel sketched at this year’s World Economic Forum 2012 in Davos:

Europe must be a political union, where the European Commission looks more like a government, the European Parliament is stronger and the Council is a kind of its second chamber, and the EU Court of Justice is the supreme court with powers to supervise the implementation of public budgets in individual countries.

This idea of a stronger Europe by intensifying integration was reconfirmed last week when Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso visited Berlin. Singing from the same hymn was lately also the President of the important European Economic Social Committee (EESC), Mr. Staffan Nilson, who demanded that we need

  • deeper European integration, in which responsibilities are shared, risks mutualised and resources jointly leveraged to create debt instruments and a growth model which is credible, coherent and sustainable.
  • a Europe of true solidarity and respect for all citizens.
  • a Europe of democracy, both representative and participatory.

No doubt, this would surely be the right approach to both rescue the European project and establish an efficient and accepted unified patent infrastructure. The question only is whether such insight does not come far too late to save anything, as the confidence of markets in the European currency and of potential uses in a European unified patent infrastructure is dramatically decreasing already.

UPDATE (15.06.2012): If you need more evidence on what is written above, you may risk a look at yesterday’ promising that “wrangle over patent court site nears end“. According to the author, FT’s EU Correspondant Alex Barker, diplomats  say that

“A decision on the location of the court will be part of a high-level political deal that will have little to do with patents.”

Meanwhile, the annotated draft agenda of 16 May 2012 for the European Council meeting on 28/29 June 2012 still refuses to address any patent issue at all.


(Photo 2010 by Hockadilly via Flickr under a CC license)

About The Author

Volker 'Falk' Metzler

European Patent Attorney, German 'Patentanwalt', European Trademark and Design Attorney, Computer Scientist, PhD, IP Blogger, Father of Two, Mountain Enthusiast

2 Responses to Is the Implementation of a reasonable EU Patent System the Litmus test for Europe’s capacity for efficient Policy-making? (UPDATE)

  1. Tony says:

    Small correction – the recent Competitiveness Council was on 30-31 May, with patents discussed on 30 May.