The patent of discord

, by Jacopo Barbati, Translated by Roberta Carbone

All the versions of this article: [English] [italiano]

The patent of discord

Proposals for the new European patent are causing heated controversy. It is interesting to see how, for a relatively marginal question, some noteworthy dynamics are appearing.


The problem stems from the hypothetical reform of European patents, which would facilitate the creation of patents inside the EU, but which would involve some linguistic problems: according to the current proposal, the documents concerning the patent request must be produced in English, French or German. Italy, at first in favour of the monolingual proposal (which would have privileged the English language), has now joined Spain in opposing this proposal, which would penalize in particular the small and medium enterprises, which do not have the necessary financial resources to translate to/from French and German. This is yet further proof of the fact that the EU absolutely needs to solve the problem of multilingualism: many languages are spoken inside the EU and this constitutes one of the most powerful expressions of the wonderful and diverse European culture. Promoting some languages to the detriment of the others will always make some unhappy, given that there are not, and there could not be languages more or less worthy than others. It is also true that managing 23 (or more) official languages could turn out to be problematic; and as long as the esperantists will be considered as a utopist sect, the solution of the problem will be unfathomably far away.

Enhanced cooperation

France and Germany, the main supporters of the trilingual patent, have no intention to let go: they have even asked for the use of the ‘enhanced cooperation’ (this option, introduced by the Treaty of Lisbon, entails the introduction of legally binding agreements only for those Member States, which must form a minimum of one third of the MSs that decide to take part in a certain agreement). Ten signatories can even be counted already: Germany, France, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Lithuania, Slovenia and Sweden. But would it not be better to use enhanced cooperation in order to solidify the Eurozone for example, or to create a common external policy which really works (I hope Mrs. Ashton does not hold it against me)?


To continue with the British, the issue also involves the UK insomuch as, although the state has not taken part in the current arguments (nobody has ever doubted the use of English for the European patent), it has recently declared itself out of the game: it seems that, according to British jurisdiction, there would be a legal problem in entrusting the management of the patents to the European Court of Justice. This is another example of the fact that many State laws, often produced after World War II in order to protect States from possible dominations and dictatorships, need to be deeply reformed by the Member States in order to welcome the European integration process. The point is: is there anyone who really wants to make these reforms?

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Your comments
  • On 24 January 2011 at 12:47, by HR Replying to: The patent of discord

    “The point is: Is there anyone who really wants to make these reforms?”

    The best way to answer the question posed by this paper is to answer with another question.

    This is not so much whether I have to go through an automatic translator that will allow me to translate the question in French and then translated back into French and answer all in English.

    No. The question is why I must use an American translator? In this case Google Translate. Who took the opportunity to suggest me, naturally, the web browser to download Google Chrome American (rather than using the Microsoft Internet Explorer browser U.S. I usually use).

    In short, there are more than questions like "Is there anyone in the political institutions of the European Union who realizes what a world we live in today?

    PS (Européen. ..): I left the exact translation of Google Translatewithout trying to to correct the English ...

  • On 25 January 2011 at 13:38, by Emmanuel Replying to: The patent of discord

    I don’t see how the three-language system proposed by the Commission may harm SMEs more than the current one, which requires a European patent to be validated in a majority of Member States in order to take effect.

    Of course, having a fully multilingual system with 23 official version would be more perfect (albeit useless), but the associated costs for the EU budget (since nobody is suggesting that companies should pay for it, otherwise it would be worse than the current situation) would be so high that I don’t think even Italy would favour it.

    So, what I don’t understand, is this all-or-nothing approach: If we can’t get full multilingualism, why on earth should we go for monolingualism? Why not have a middle way, which this trilingual system tries to achieve?

    The same rationale goes for enhanced cooperation. I just don’t understand those who say that this would divide the single market. It simply doesn’t. In its proposal for a Decision authorizing the enhanced cooperation:, the Commission explains it very clearly. It is far much better to have a fully functioning single market for at least those who actually want it, than have a fragmented internal market for everybody...

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