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This Sunday: Referendum in Denmark on Unified Patent Court

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This Sunday: Referendum in Denmark on Unified Patent Court


On 25 May, along with the European elections, Danish citizens will  participate in a constitutional referendum on whether to transfer sovereignty in the area of patent applications. An electorate of just about 4 million voters will decide on whether to join the Unified Patent Court, a new European court designed to issue single patents across the EU. The issue was put to a popular vote as there was no five-sixths majority available in the national parliament, where both the populist right and left were in opposition.

It is not by far the first time that Danish citizens are called to vote on a substantive issue regarding Europe. In the last five decades the nordic monarchy experienced six referendums on Europe: 1972 on accession to the then European Community (yes), 1986 on the participation in the common market (yes), 1992 and 1993 on the accession to the new European Union (no, yes), 1998 on ratifying the Amsterdam Treaty (yes) and finally in the year 2000 on joining the Eurozone (no).

“Denmark is a good example how to harmonize nationwide forms of direct democracy with participating in a transnational political community like the EU”, underlines Bruno Kaufmann, a Swedish political scientist and board member of Democracy International: ”As a result, the Danish with other electorates across Europe, are much more knowleadhable than other citizens on European issues as they have been actively involved in the EU decision-making process”. Kaufmann refers to a study by Matthias Benz and Alois Stutzer (published in Public Choice #119), which offers the evidence that citizens in countries like Denmark, Switzerland and Ireland are the best informed ones.

The Danish referendum on the Patent Court is the 57th popular vote on an EU issue across Europe since 1972. In the campaigns up to this Sunday's pan-European election – the second biggest electoral event in history after the just concluded elections in India – several party groups have underlined the need of introducing transnational EU referendums. This would complement the recently introduced agenda-setting right to conduct European Citizen's Initiatives. ”Europe needs definitely more participatory and direct democracy”, states Bruno Kaufmann on behalf of Democracy International, the global coalition for democracy that unites democracy activists from across the world.

The Unified Patent Court is expected to enter into force in early 2015, once 13 of all participating countries ratified the Agreement on a Unified Patent Court, which can be joined by non-EU countries also. France, Germany and the United Kingdom – the countries where most European patents are registered – must be among the 13 ratifying countries. The purpose of the court is to hear cases regarding infringement and revocation proceedings of European patents and, in doing so, to eliminate the need for separate litigation of infringement of European patents.  

Further Information:

- The Direct Democracy Navigator on Denmark
- Website of the Unified Patent Court
- List of Referendums held in Denmark

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