Currently viewing the tag: "EU Council"

As reported, last week’s European Council summit has reached an agreement on the EU Unified Patent and a EU Unified Patent Court after volatile negotiations on 29 June 2012.

The EU Council thus made a big step forward on its way to achieve the final goal, as expressed in the annex of Doc 10059/12 of 24 May 2012:

On the 1st of April 2014 the system should be ready for the first registration of a European patent with unitary effect.

However, a number of steps – and one big legal problem – still remain to be taken. Already this July, the EU Parliament will have its first plenary session on the EU Patent Package that was postponed on 19 December 2011 by JURI (cf. minutes) and the EU Council will consider the issue as well:

But it cannot be expected that the process will run smoothly, as the top-level negotiations at last week’s EU Summit ‘suggested’ – apparently under the pressure of David Cameron and eurosceptic Tory MPs lead by Bill Cash, Chairman of the influential Scrutiny Committee and ‘herald of the apocalypse‘ -

that Articles 6 to 8 of the [Unitary Patent] Regulation [...] to be adopted by the Council and the European Parliament be deleted.

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While some understand the 'Berlaymont' façade as symbol for a spirit of transparency, openness, and citizen involvement of EU policy making, others only recognise a good business for window wipers.

The epic and painful process of drafting and implementing a unified European patent infrastructure, which got stuck again on the latest Competitiveness Council meeting of 31 May/1 June 2012 (see our reports here and here as well as further coverage [1], [2]) discloses frightening mechanisms and structural deficiencies of the European policy-making process that may endanger stability and acceptance of and confidence in the European Union as a whole, particularly before the background of the current severe financial and depths crisis that shakes the Union like nothing else before.

Upon a closer look at the process, four major problems can be identified that prevent EU politicians to find a reasonable solution satisfying the needs of the European innovative economy:

  1. Ignorance as to users and experts and their mostly well-founded observations;
  2. A striking lack of transparency preventing public involvement;
  3. An information policy that disguises more than it discloses; and
  4. National egoisms, inappropriate horse-trading and power games.

Below I collect some striking examples of each of the above four phenomena.

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But Hey, Don't Postpone Joy

After months of intense debate in the EU Council and the EU Parliament’s Legal Affair’s Committee (JURI), the European Parliament was scheduled to have its fist plenary session on the EU Patent Package (Unitary Patent Regulation, Language Regime Regulation, Unified Patent Court Agreement) on coming Wednesday, 14 February 2012.

While Google Search still delivers an entry “Plenary sitting – European Parliament Tuesday, 14 February 2012 Draft agenda. 09:00 – 10:20 Debates. European patent. Creation of unitary patent protection.“, the final draft agenda now announces a Fisheries debate instead.

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Absent of any reliable source the tea leaves give some cryptic clues: Munich on schedule, London delayed, Paris vanished?

The story so far. As we all know, the talks on the new EU-wide patent infrastructure (consisting basically of the Unitary Patent Regulation and the Unified Patent Court Agreement) run aground in late December despite quite some rounds of negotiations producing encouraging press releases according to which the so called ‘EU Patent Package’  was considered “broadly accepted in substance”. However, at the end of the Polish EU Presidency‘s half-year term, the adoption of the “Warsaw Patent Convention” – a term coined by Polish Deputy Prime Minister Pawlakcould not be celebrated as expected due to ongoing dissension.

Even though it was spread after the failed Competitiveness Council of December 5/6 through semi-official channels (e.g. tweets and press report) that the whole deal was almost done and only the seat of the central division of the Unified Patent Court remained to be decided, real doubts and harsh criticism almost immediately occurred and stakeholders saw an opportunity to again open the discussion on various substantive legal issues (see e.g. EPLAW resolution, FICPI position paper), such as on Articles 6 to 9 of the Regulation (effects of patents) that require substantive patent law to be subject to review by the CJEU.

Despite ongoing controversies and criticism (“desaster“, “bound to fail“) as to substantive issues, the politicians declared the dice cast for the Unitary Patent so that the Regulation was not unwrapped again for negotiations as to the legal merits. In fact, the Regulation for the Unitary Patent meanwhile got a green light from the powerful legal committee (JURI) of the EU Parliament in late December and the EU Council began to linguistically finalise the Regulation text in early January.

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Inhabitants of Delphi's Temple of Apollo left for modern Luxembourg Temple

Yesterday the members of the EU Parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee (JURI) voted in three separate sessions on the EU patent package (see nos. 18 to 21 of agenda):

  • Enhanced cooperation in the area of the creation of unitary patent protection, JURI/7/05848, Rapporteur: Bernhard Radkay (S&D).
  • Enhanced cooperation in the area of the creation of unitary patent protection with regard to the applicable translation arrangements, JURI/7/05847, Rapporteur: Raffaele Baldassarre (PPE).
  • Jurisdictional system for patent disputes, JURI/7/06168, Rapporteur: Klaus-Heiner Lehne (PPE).

Fitting into the parliamentary tradition of issuing celebrating press releases when it comes to the future EU patent system, like

yesterday’s post-vote press statement was titled

disclosing, besides the well-known mantras as to the beneficial effects of the new European patent system, the liberating message that

Legal Affairs Committee MEPs backed a political deal struck last 1 December between Parliament and Council negotiators on the so-called “EU patent package” [...]. If Parliament as a whole and the Council confirm the deal, a new EU patent will be created.

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Emblem of the Council of the European UnionAs already reported in my earlier posting, the European Union is just about to sign ACTA, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement negotiated between the European Union and its Member States, Australia, Canada, Japan, the Republic of Korea, the United Mexican States, the Kingdom of Morocco, New Zealand, the Republic of Singapore, the Swiss Confederation and the United States of America. ACTA is a proposed plurilateral agreement for the purpose of establishing international standards on intellectual property rights enforcement.

Yesterday, the EU Council has published Document 12192/11 conveying a draft Decision saying that the President of the Council (i.e. Mr Herman Van Rompuy) shall be authorised to designate the person(s) empowered to sign the Agreement on behalf of the Union. Moreover, the Official text of ACTA has been published with Document 12196/11.

It is to be understood that this text is a Draft only; however, the formal adoption thereof surely will go through on one of the next sessions of the EU Council. However, afterwards that matter will be dealt with in the European Parliament as well as in each of the EU Member States.

ACTA is debated controversially because of the secrecy of some of the negotiation rounds. Moreover, there are doubts as to if ACTA is compatible with EU Acquis Communautaire; see my earlier posting there.

ACTA was born out of the frustration of the major industrialised economies with progress on monitoring and norm-setting on the enforcement of intellectual property rights in multilateral fora. In the WTO Council for TRIPS (‘TRIPS Council’), Brazil, India and China have consistently blocked the inclusion of enforcement as a permanent agenda item. At the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), enforcement issues were relegated to a purely advisory committee.

One of its features is the creation of another institutional structure in the field of Intellectual Property law besides WIPO and WTO, i.e. the ACTA Committee provided for in Article 36. This Committee will be entitled to:

  • review the implementation and operation of ACTA;
  • consider matters concerning the development of ACTA;
  • consider any proposed amendments to ACTA;
  • decide upon the terms of accession to ACTA of any Member of the WTO; and
  • consider any other matter that may affect the implementation and operation of ACTA.

The Committee may decide to:

  • establish ad hoc committees or working groups to assist the Committee in carrying out its responsibilities or to assist a prospective Party upon its request in acceding to ACTA;
  • seek the advice of non-governmental persons or groups;
  • make recommendations regarding the implementation and operation of ACTA, including by endorsing best practice guidelines related thereto;
  • share information and best practices with third parties on reducing intellectual property rights infringements, including techniques for identifying and monitoring piracy and counterfeiting; and
  • take other actions in the exercise of its functions.

Perhaps, on EU level  the function of the ACTA Committee should also be discussed in relation to the planned new compentences of OHIM in the field of IP enforcement.

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