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05.10.09

EPO in State of Turmoil, Patents Kill

Posted in Europe, Finance, Patents at 6:58 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“Staff at the European Patent Office went on strike accusing the organization of corruption: specifically, stretching the standards for patents in order to make more money.

“One of the ways that the EPO has done this is by issuing software patents in defiance of the treaty that set it up.”

Richard Stallman

Candle

Summary: The EPO faces trouble as greed takes over it; ethics of particular patents questioned thanks to the openness of the Internet

THE EPO’s problems are a subject that we covered in recent days [1, 2] and the FFII has just issued a press release about:

Software patents plot buried under amicus avalanche

The EPO’s latest attempt to validate their widely criticized practice of software patenting has been met with a much stronger response than expected. This broad public interest comes in reaction to the referral on the patentability of software to the Enlarged Board of Appeal. The referral procedure allows interested third parties to file statements – Amicus Curiae Briefs – to present their views to the members of the board. The Enlarged Board of Appeals asked for such statements to be submitted by end of April and a total of 89 such statements have been published by the Register so far.

In another new report that Groklaw calls “a disturbing article” some more details finally emerge and there is no need for a subscription to read.

European Patent Office (EPO) President Alison Brimelow informed her staff that she will “not be seeking extension” when her current three-year contract is up at the end of June 2010, EPO Director for Media Relations Rainer Osterwalder told Intellectual Property Watch. Choosing a new president is the member-driven job of the administrative council of the EPO, but it is unclear when they will start such a process.

Following last week's remarks from Intel's Grove, warnings about a patent bubble are taken seriously and EDN has just published an article which is somwhat critical of the existing system in the US. Intel’s counsel is quoted:

At that point Simon dropped a bomb. “This is something we should definitely fix,” the Intel counsel said. “Right now there’s $35 billion out there trying to buy patents and form them into pools. And I can tell you that there is much more money coming in soon.”

Even more dire, Simon said that recently one of the experts on his team had been approached with a job offer from an investment bank. The bank is putting together a team to pool patents and create financial derivatives based on the pools.

This would, in effect, create a mechanism by which speculators could bet on the future cash flow from patents. Because more aggressive litigation would be expected to increase the flow, it is likely that a patent derivatives market would significantly further increase the assertion of patents by NPEs, and hence further increase the risk of innovation for real technology companies.

It is probably more or less clear that greed alone is a threat to this system, which only over-inflates itself. There is now a new Web site called HarmfulPatents.org. It mostly targets patents which kill people and it opens up with the following text:

More than 20 years after medical expert systems were first developed, the USPTO issued two patents simply on the concept of using a computer to help physicians choose medical treatments. A company that purchased these patents claims that “the diagnosis and treatment of most chronic diseases will fall under the claims of these patents.” Already it has filed patent infringement suits against seven companies in three years and it threatened to sue a university for hosting a freely available HIV database. Perhaps most startling of all, that same university — where much of the seminal research on expert systems took place — entered into a licensing agreement intended to limit the use of the HIV database, which had been created by one of its own faculty.

There is a new report which claims patents are killing in India too.

Do Patents Kill? A Strange Twist in the Ramkumar vs Samsung Saga

[...]

A number of papers report that a death in Chennai could be connected with the ongoing Ramkumar vs Samsung (and others) patent litigation, a litigation that we have been tracking on this blog.

Should people start rethinking this system of endless greed?

“The European Patent Office is a Corrupt, Malicious Organisation Which Should Not Exist”

Richard Stallman

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