On 15 February, the European Parliament by a large majority voted in favour of a recommendation by the European Commission to move towards an EU patent scheme, using the 'enhanced co-operation' procedure.
The procedure, used only for the second time in EU history, offers a solution to an almost decade long deadlock regarding the creation of a unified EU patent, which fails to get unanimous Council support due to a blocking minority by Spain and Italy.
The proposal is expected to be adopted during the March 10 Council which will then apply to the 12 Member States that have signed up to it. Other Member States are free to join at any time.
The long standing dispute on the official languages to be used will be dealt with in a separate proposal.
ESBA President Tina Sommer said: ''We are pleased with the outcome of the Parliament's vote. The current legal environment makes filing for patents an extremely costly and burdensome exercise for the EU's smallest businesses, which are often forced to hire external experts and struggle with issues of translation. The proposal sanctioned by the European Parliament is a step in the right direction. ESBA urges the Council to adopt the proposal in March and strongly advises other Member States to join the Enhanced Cooperation Agreement to make the EU patent as inclusive as possible. Last but not least, the Commission must insure an effective information campaign, once the new system is in place, to ensure that European SMEs are aware of the changes and how to use them to their advantage.