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03.12.09

Patent Legislation News in Brief

Posted in Europe, Law, Microsoft, Patents at 10:50 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: If a patent reform resolves nothing, is it time to just scrap the whole patent system?

FACING the immortal question, ““should software be patented, or free to the public?” answers depend on one’s interests and means of leveraging the law. Microsoft, for example, used to dislike patents when it was small but loved them when it became a monopoliser. The company is still pushing for back door to software patents in Europe, as promoted by Microsoft-hired lobbyists.

Digital Majority has netted new evidence of the push for the Community patent, which is an 'harmonisation'-like back door to ills such as software patents. They are trying similar tricks right here in Pariliament and Heise discusses the ‘dispute’ over software patents in Europe and in the US.

Over the next few months, significant decisions will be made, both in the US and in Europe, concerning the patentability of software and of business practices, decisions which are already casting shadows. Concluding at the end of April, the Enlarged Board of Appeal at the European Patent Office (EPA) is conducting a consultation about the patentability of computer programs. The board hopes that the consultation will help with the processing of the referral by EPA President Alison Brimelow to clarify open questions concerning the controversial interpretations of the European Patent Convention (EPC). The questions refer to Article 52, which states that “programs for computers as such” are not to be regarded as inventions and are therefore excluded from patentability.

Hearings about the phony patent 'reform' bill (which is a farce) are being scheduled and Wired Magazine writes about the role of large companies, which seem to be gaining the most here (very much as expected in a corporocracy).

High tech and pharmaceutical companies have expressed unusual agreement on a patent reform bill, including on the most contentious issue: how to determine damages for infringement.

A patent revamp passed the U.S. House of Representatives last year but failed in the Senate largely because the tech and drug industries could not agree on whether damages for infringement should be reduced. Current law calls for damages to be the entire market value of the product, tripled in the case of willful infringement.

There appeared to be some agreement on Tuesday that the judge in a patent infringement trial should act as a gatekeeper, instructing juries on what factors to consider in determining damages.

Washington University researchers are meanwhile warning about this system as a whole. They pretty much call for the abolishment of the patent system based on economical grounds.

Patent and copyright law are stifling innovation and threatening the global economy according to two economists at Washington University in St. Louis in a new book, Against Intellectual Monopoly. Professors Michele Boldrin and David K. Levine call for abolishing the current patent and copyright system in order to unleash innovations necessary to reverse the current recession and rescue the economy. The professors discuss their stand against intellectual property protections in a video and news release linked here.

Two more Nobel Laureates have recently advised similarly [1, 2], based on the same rationale.

A renowned columnist, Thomas Friedman, has made interesting suggestions. See the new essay “Change or Die”:

If this perception is true and well-founded, then there should be no doubt that the patent system will have to follow somehow in due time.

The patent system to will need to change or face revolt that will weaken it considerably. Trust in it has already eroded and the same goes for ISO.

“Small Software companies cannot afford to go to court or pay damages. Who is this software patent system for?” —Marco Schulze, Nightlabs Gmbh

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