Persuading all 27 member states of the EU to adopt a single European patent system (whereby patents would only be issued in the three main official languages of the EU - English, French and German) has proved impossible so far. Currently most member states require a translation of the whole patent into their own language before it can be validated, costing on average €14,000. According to the Proposal for a Council Regulation on the translation arrangements for the European Union patent, published in July 2010 this translation cost could be reduced to €620 under a single European patent system.

Italy is still holding out for Italian translations to be a requirement, but the European Commission is to be asked to back a proposal from Sweden, Germany, the United Kingdom, Ireland, the Netherlands, Slovenia and Estonia for a common patent agreement based on "enhanced cooperation" between them.

This news comes as Google signs a Memorandum of Understanding with the European Patent Office to translate approximately 1.5 million patents into 29 different languages, hopefully paving the way to faster and more effective machine translations of patents.

So there is yet hope that the EU can work to reduce the cost of obtaining a patent so that costs are more in line with the US, where, it is estimated, the cost of obtaining a patent is 90% less than in the EU - thereby increasing competitiveness, encouraging and protecting European invention. For now, we look to see what Google can deliver...