This paper presents an economic opinion on the questionnaire on the European patent system that was recently issued by the European Commission. The authors argue that the debate on patent reform in Europe needs to be more focused on its economic purpose, namely the promotion of innovation. As a first step we unfold sub-issues and trade-offs underlying the general and consensual goal which ‘‘promoting innovation’’ is.
The authors contrast the protection and diffusion functions of the patent system, both of which must be taken into account in order to create an original European patent regime geared towards innovation. They also emphasize the possibility for the European patent system to answer more specific needs, such as those of small and medium enterprises or those of industries with highly cumulative innovations. They discuss as the second step the capacity of the European patent system to achieve these policy goals through various levers. They especially argue that patent fees or translation requirements should be viewed as policy instruments rather than as in a purely budgetary perspective. We moreover consider the positive and negative consequences one can expect from the coexistence of different patent systems in Europe.