Call renewed to improve the environment for Europe's inventors

14 June 2012

Speaking at a press conference today in Copenhagen on the occasion of the European Inventor Award 2012, EPO President Benoît Battistelli highlighted Europe's innovation potential, and the need to better support inventors by introducing the planned unitary patent.

"Europe is a continent of inventors," said Mr Battistelli. "And inventors need an intelligent and balanced framework of intellectual property rights to support their efforts, including a cost-effective and legally safe patent system," he said.

The EPO President called on EU member states to move forward on the introduction of the unitary patent, which aims at simplifying procedures and cutting the costs for the legal protection of inventions in Europe. It is expected in particular to benefit SMEs, research centres and universities.

"At a time when our political leaders are looking for solutions to the financial crisis, we need to urge them to remain committed to boosting the environment for innovation, which includes completing the European patent system," Mr Battistelli said. "The unitary patent would undoubtedly help to strengthen Europe's position in the world and secure its future in the competition between economic regions," he added.

European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, echoed this sentiment in a video message: "Patents are an important link between the spark of invention and new technologies, products and services. But as many researchers and entrepreneurs keep telling me, the absence of a cheap and simple EU patent amounts to a tax on innovation that Europe can no longer afford. That is why I hope that the member states will settle their differences on the EU patent as soon as possible."

Jesper Kongstad, Director General of the Danish Patent and Trademark Office, speaking on behalf of the Danish EU Council Presidency, said: "49% of all sales by companies in Denmark are IP-based, and 43% of all private employment is also based on IP coming from private and corporate inventors. This demonstrates the necessity for an efficient IP system in Europe. During its EU Council Presidency, Denmark has been very active in securing the necessary reforms to bring this to a fruitful conclusion by the end its presidency.

Outstanding inventors honoured

The speakers paid tribute to the 15 nominees of this year's European Inventor Award, which cover the fields of medicine, telecommunications, wastewater treatment, battery recycling, energy and environment, clothing, laser technology, railway manufacturing and construction. All of the nominated inventions have significantly contributed to the creation of jobs and economic growth, not just in their regions of origin: "Sixty percent of the patent applications at the EPO come from outside Europe, as R&D is becoming ever more international," the EPO President said. "But of all of these examples demonstrate the importance of a well-functioning IP system, and the benefit it can bring to society. I call on Europe's politicians to take a decision on the issue of the patent court, so that the EPO can start granting unitary patents sometime in 2014, and begin at last to make life easier for innovators," he added. 

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