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Balancing Diversity and Efficiency in the EU’s language regime: E Pluribus Tres for the EU Patent?


Recently, the European Commission has breathed new life into the decade-long attempt to create a patent that would protect inventors throughout the European Union with a proposal making English, French, and German the sole languages of the EU patent. This would reduce the cost of patenting, thereby stimulating research and development within the EU. But the EU-wide patent has reached an impasse as member states struggle with the question of which languages should be used. Italy in particular has opposed the exclusion of Italian, raising more general questions about the language regime in the European Union. Are diversity and efficiency mutually exclusive, or is there a formula that can satisfy both criteria? It appears, in the end, that the Commission's proposal is the most effective way of cutting costs while at the same time preserving the multilingual character of the EU. For Italy, however, the question of trilingualism in the patent system has become a kind of litmus test of its rank within the EU.