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03.05.17

Poisonous Patents at the European Patent Office (EPO)

Posted in Europe, Patents at 8:46 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

How far should patent scope go?

Zinc colour

Summary: When colouring involves ingestible metals and questions about public interest in patenting arise, reminding the population that patents are not some limitless God-given right

THE “European Patent Office uphelds patent for zinc pyrithione in architectural paints,” says this new press release-like article (there are earlier such articles), though the “EPO’s decision can be appealed. Subject to the outcome of an appeal the patent will remain in force until 3 February 2018.” In light of recent debates about "poisonous priority" at Battistelli’s EPO, this might deserve closer scrutiny.

“One might joke that a patent on this would actively limit the practice, by giving just one company a monopoly on the practice.”The patent from Switzerland can be accessed through the EPO’s Web site (EP 0963291 B1). There are health issues associated with that. See the 2015 paper, “Time to Ban Lead in Industrial Paints and Coatings” (among others). Zinc is said to be less damaging than lead and zinc pyrithione is used in creams, shampoos, soaps, etc. Make no mistake, however, as not all zinc mixtures are created equal. The chemicals “can be mixed with other materials to make industrial items such as paint, dyes, and more. These combination substances can be particularly toxic” and lead to poisoning, similar to lead poisoning that Flint made so infamous over the past few years. “Lonza Group Ltd, a holding company under Swiss law, is fully committed to good corporate governance,” it insists, but we still can’t help but suspect that dissemination of zinc pyrithione into groundwater is in no way desirable. One might joke that a patent on this would actively limit the practice, by giving just one company a monopoly on the practice.

“The great danger right now is that if the UPC ever becomes a reality, even if outside the UK (left alone and out of it due to Brexit), patent scope will expand even further, attracting all sorts of unwanted lawsuits.”Patent scope at the EPO was the original cause for our concern about the EPO. That was almost one decade ago (see earlier articles in this Wiki page), with greater concern regarding software patents (back when the USPTO was very lenient and various US courts overly soft on them). Our articles about software patents in Europe go back to 2007 and occasionally we complained about patents on life, too. These were patents that the public was up in arms about, partly because of health issues.

The great danger right now is that if the UPC ever becomes a reality, even if outside the UK (left alone and out of it due to Brexit), patent scope will expand even further, attracting all sorts of unwanted lawsuits. “The whole game is to ratify without a new discussion in [British] Parliament before the end of March,” Henrion noted in IP Kat, which used to regularly promote the UPC. We expect many people to sign this petition next week.

We are very pro-EPO. We want to repair the EPO, as do opinionated EPO workers.

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