Brussels, 04 March 2002
Internal Market Commissioner Frits Bolkestein has declared the results of the Internal Market Council, at which an agreement on a Community patent was postponed until the next Council, disappointing.
The Spanish Presidency announced its intention of reaching an agreement on the Community patent proposal on the 21 May Internal Market Council, taking as a starting point the Belgian Presidency compromise discussed at the 20 December Council.
Commissioner Bolkestein reminded the Council of the Lisbon pledge to make Europe the most competitive and dynamic society in the world. He claimed that while there has been some progress in areas such as risk capital, reduction of State aid and the simplification of the regulatory burden to start up firms, 'most of the key reforms announced at Lisbon are still on paper, waiting to be approved and implemented.
'The Internal Market Council must lead on economic reforms,' said Mr Bolkestein. '[...] If it is not the Internal Market Council leading, who will? We must be ambitious, adopt necessary measures, define new goals and mark the road to follow by other Councils. Against this standard, I find the Council conclusions somewhat disappointing. I find in particular no sense of urgency on a number of important reform issues such as the Community patent [...]. This is hard to square with notions of 'leadership' or 'ambition,'' he said.
On a more optimistic note, Mr Bolkestein expressed the hope that Barcelona will provide a new boost to economic reform, a renewed momentum on which the Internal Market Council will be able to act.
Commissioner Bolkestein reported to the Council on the results of a public consultation on the possible introduction of a Community utility model, as requested by the European Council. A utility model is a registered right which confers exclusive protection for a technical invention. It resembles a patent in that the invention must be new and must display a measure of inventive achievement, although not to the extent which is usually required for patents. Unlike patents, utility models are granted as a rule without a preliminary examination to establish novelty.
Comments gathered during the public consultation were overwhelmingly negative, expressing the concern that a Community utility model may have a negative impact on competition and the competitiveness of the EU in three possible ways: by overloading the marketplace with tens of thousands of new monopoly rights, by undermining the patent system, and in particular a Community patent, and by introducing such a right at Community level when utility models are predominantly used for national or even local protection purposes.
A handful of commentators had a more positive outlook on a possible Community utility model, saying that it would allow the protection of small technological improvements with a short market life, which do not currently benefit from any protection, particularly those developed by SMEs (small and medium sized enterprises).
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