Parliament decided on Monday to postpone a vote on the EU patent, following a move by member states to modify the agreement previously reached with MEPs by deleting three key articles of the legislation. MEPs called this move a "striking break" with procedure, which could lead to an EU Court of Justice case.
Bernhard Rapkay (S&D, DE), the MEP responsible for steering the unitary patent legislation through Parliament, asked it to postpone the plenary vote set for Wednesday, saying that the Council's request to its Committee of Permanent Representatives (COREPER) was a "striking break" with procedure and unacceptable. "If COREPER decides what I have seen, we shall have to discuss this whole issue again", he added.
Klaus-Heiner Lehne (EPP, DE), Chair of the Committee on Legal Affairs, which has responsibility for the matter, backed Mr Rapkay, saying "if Council is working to delete articles 6-8, it would emasculate the proposal. We want clear confirmation that these three key articles are to be deleted. If so, this will go straight to the European Court of Justice as a 'crash test' case".
The issue will now be discussed again on 10 July by Legal Affairs Committee MEPs, together with Council, Commission and Parliament's Legal Service.
Parliament and Council negotiators reached a political deal in December 2011 on the so-called "patent package", which includes the unitary patent, the language regime and the unified patent court. Nevertheless, Parliament several times postponed the vote as the question of the location of the seat of the Unified Patent Court had yet to be decided by the member states.
The location of the Unified Patent Court's seat was in fact settled at the European Council of 28 and 29 June 2012. However, the heads of state and government suggested that articles 6 to 8 of the draft regulation on the creation of the unitary patent should be deleted. In effect, this would mean that the competence of the European Court of Justice in patent litigation cases would be considerably reduced,, by comparison with the text agreed in December.
The three MEPs who brokered the agreement with Council in December 2011 are Mr Rapkay, Mr Lehne and Raffaele Baldassarre (EPP, IT).