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Commissioner: Single EU patent in 5 years

MUNICH, Germany, April 19 (UPI) -- The European Union could have a single patent system covering all 27 countries within five years, an EU commissioner said Thursday.

"Protecting intellectual property in Europe is insufficient at the moment to provide the necessary drive for the innovation that Europe so desperately needs," Enterprise and Industry Commissioner Guenter Verheugen said at a patent forum in Munich, Germany.

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Small and midsize companies, which account for 90 percent of the EU's 24 million businesses, cannot afford so many countries' patent-application costs, he said.

The costs are an average 11 times higher than in the United States and 13 times higher than in Japan -- countries Verheugen described as the world's most innovative.

Verheugen blamed individual governments for blocking EU patent improvements, which he said was damaging EU competitiveness, the EUobserver news service reported.

The countries have been log-jammed for 20 years over a host of issues, including time delays for translations claims.

"I really urge national leaders to reconsider their positions to allow us to move forward," Verheugen said.

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