A summit deal reached last week to end
a decades-long fight over the creation of a European patent scheme
was facing turbulence Tuesday, as both the European Parliament and
the European Commission questioned it.
At last week's EU summit, in order to break the final deadlock on the issue, European Union leaders agreed to split the seat of a new European patent court between Paris, London and March.
In addition - in order to win over Britain's prime minister David Cameron, who was threatening to block negotiations - leaders agreed to curtail the competences of the EU Court of Justice (ECJ) in relation to the new scheme.
This was done by scrapping three articles from a piece of draft legislation that had already been approved by the EU parliament - a move that enraged lawmakers, but also raised concern from the EU executive.
"We have no reservations on the decisions made on the seat of the court, we have reservations on the scrapping of these three articles," commission spokesman Olivier Bailly said, arguing that they were "important for the good functioning" of the scheme.
In Strasbourg, during a debate on last week's summit, lawmakers slammed the patent court compromise as "absurd."
The leader of the Socialist faction, Hannes Swoboda, criticized Britain for insisting on the three-way split, even though it has criticized the European Parliament for having three seats itself.
"When there is a contradiction between Cameron lecturing everyone and preventing Europe from developing, European public opinion has to be aware," Green leader Daniel Cohn-Bendit agreed.
To protest against summit decisions, EU parliamentarians decided Monday to postpone indefinitely both their debate and vote on the patent deal, originally scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday. The agreement cannot become law without parliamentary approval.
Bailly indicated that despite its concerns, the commission was less belligerant.
"It is not a perfect deal, but at least it is a deal and after 30 years of wait we think it is a step forward," he said.
Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt, whose country brokered the agreement during its turn at the EU presidency, told parliamentarians that it was an "historic compromise."
EU nations have been for decades trying to end a situation under which firms have to file their patents at the national level - meaning that they have to face 27 different legal jurisdictions and 23 official languages within the bloc.
In 2010, another argument played out about the languages to be used. A final deal settling on English, French and German as the official patent languages led Italy and Spain to walk out and file an appeal before the ECJ. That matter is still pending and might provide yet another stumbling block.
But EU officials insist that pushing ahead with the scheme would be one of the key steps to reviving growth in the crisis-hit bloc, as it would encourage business innovation.
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