01.23.12

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Opposition to the Unitary Patent in the British Parliament

Posted in Europe, Patents at 6:15 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

London monuments

Summary: Loophole for software patents in Europe meets opposition from some politicians in Great Britain

THE BRITISH parliament, comprising lawyers for the most part, debates patent monopolies and expresses concerns over the unitary patent which we wrote so much about [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7]. To quote:

The European Scrutiny Committee said some of the draft plans for a single EU-wide patent system could disadvantage UK small businesses.

Plans to allow inventors to gain cost-effective unilateral patent protection across the EU have been under negotiation for years. In recent months 25 EU countries have moved closer to establishing a new framework around how that system would operate, however

Negotiations over the workings of a new unitary patent court system are of “particular” concern, the committee said in a report on the enforcement of patent rights. Current plans under discussion suggest that national courts will hear cases involving disputes over the validity of unitary patents, but that the European Court of Justice (ECJ) would deal with cases involving the infringement of rights to do with the same patent, the committee said. Such a framework could lead to expensive legal battles and “inconsistent” decision making, the report said.

For all we know, Italy and Spain still oppose this, with Italy reportedly (based on one article) surrendering.

A new article by Jonathan Corbet (at LWN) expects the patent issue to get worse this year. Quoting his now-public op-ed:

On the political front, it is a fairly safe bet that the mobile patent wars will get worse. The participants in this battle appear to be tooling up for an extensive and protracted fight, and there seems to be a steady supply of new companies (British Telecom, for example) piling on in the hope of gaining a piece of the pie for themselves. Things may reach a point where it becomes impossible to market handsets or tablets in some parts of the world. One could hope that a paralyzed mobile market would suggest to lawmakers that the patent system is broken, and that those lawmakers would respond by reforming said system. Alas, a more likely outcome (though not in 2012) is the formation of a patent pool under strong “encouragement” by governments that ends the fights and establishes the positions of a small number of large players at the expense of new entrants. How free software will fare in such a world is far from clear.

In the next post we shall look at how this affects GNU, Linux, and Free software in general.

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