02.04.11

Europe Enters the Patents Cold War

Posted in Europe, Patents at 3:23 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Sienna, Italy

Summary: With the exception of Italy (and Spain, although it is being blackmailed), Europe is taking the road to spurious patents that harm developers while benefiting lawyers and monopolists

COMMON sense says that developers should write code, not patent applications. But in a world where law school graduates clamour for jobs that cannot be so simple, can it? Based on yet another report — this time from patents sceptics — European policy-makers continue to fall for the illusion that more patents must be indicative of more “innovation”. To quote:

The European Union is failing to keep pace with key competitor nations and is in need of a radical new, greatly simplified, approach to research and innovation, the European Commission said on 1 February. And an element of what is needed is a European-wide patent.

Once again we find this excuse for a unitary system that can in due course endorse software patents, too. Fortunately, there is already a thorough rebuttal to this nonsense, going under the headline that says: “Europe Feels The Need To Catch Up To China And The US In The Self-Destructive Patent Race”

So, over in Europe, overreacting bureaucrats are about to make the same mistake. They’ve declared that the EU is “falling behind” in innovation (really, patents) and are urging a more streamlined patent system that would be European-wide. The idea, of course, is that with a EU-wide patent system, it becomes easier to get patents. Of course, that only helps innovation if patents actually lead to more innovation and, sadly, the evidence suggests otherwise.

EurActiv joined the propaganda and did mention Italy’s smart decision to resist and thereby cripple a European-wide patent concept. To quote:

Italy found itself isolated in December when eleven countries signed a letter requesting the European Commission to move forward on the patent issue without waiting for other countries. Another dozen said it was time to move forward using enhanced cooperation, leaving the door open for other countries to join at a later stage.

“There will likely be a short exchange of views on the issue,” said an EU source, “but only if Berlusconi brings it forward”.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi raised this issue in a letter sent on Friday (28 January) to European Council President Herman Van Rompuy and Commission President José Manuel Barroso.

He asked for progress to be made on the patent issue but underlined that there should be an agreement “respecting the integrity of the internal market and involving all member states”.

The patent lawyer Falk Metzler is no friend of the FFII and he is a good friend of software patents based on his blog posts. He does not like the way FFII helps derail the European-wide patent and his contempt for the group generated some slightly hostile remarks in a mailing list. To quote just part of it:

That’s the moment in history when the Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure (FFII), which has become widely known for their emphatic resistance against the EU Software Patent Directive (COM (2002) 92) in 2002 to 2005, comes up with the idea that the EU Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market (OHIM) should be in charge of the coming EU patent rather than the more independent European Patent Office (EPO), since the FFII deeply suspects EPO “for granting of software patents without a prior legislative authorisation”.

The FFII was founded by his fellow countryman who fought to keep software patents away from Europe. In the next post we’ll show what happens in the US where no group like the FFII existed to stave off such destructive legal weapons.

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