EditorsAbout the SiteComes vs. MicrosoftUsing This Web SiteSite ArchivesCredibility IndexOOXMLOpenDocumentPatentsNovellNews DigestSite NewsRSS

09.21.17

UPC Threatens to Weaponise Software Patents in Countries That Forbade These

Posted in Europe, Patents at 1:38 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Cannon

Summary: The reality of software patents in Europe and what a Unified Patent Court (UPC) would mean for these if it ever became a reality

“Having to inspect the patent database before writing a single line of code, that’s not what I call Happy Programmer’s Day,” Benjamin Henrion wrote the other day, adding that “it does not change much to the fact that the EPO and al [sic] still forces you to read their invention garbage.”

The EU rejects software patents, but the EPO flagrantly disobeys the rules, instructions, common sense etc.

Henrion took note of this new article from an EPO-friendly site, relaying the words of “Francisco Mingorance [who is] executive secretary of IP Europe, a lobby group representing European technology companies and research institutes.”

“Open standards and Francisco Mingorance do not go well in the same sentence,” Henrion wrote. “We now await a communication from the European Commission on FRAND licensing this autumn,” he added. FRAND is a euphemism for patent traps inside standards.

To say the least, Mingorance is an enemy of programming. He used to work for the Business Software Alliance (BSA), a pro-FRAND, anti-FOSS, pro-software patents lobby (and the whole bundle of Microsoft lobbying).

At the moment, the main concern we have is that Unitary Patent lobbying threatens to bring software patents to more countries, even countries which explicitly disallow software patents. We wrote many articles about that before.

There’s one particular comment in IP Kat which reinforces our views about the UPC. The comment is very long so its author was prevented from posting it (or rather having it published) — to the point of stating: “It would be nice to see comments appearing a little sooner on this thread. There is still a lot to discuss (including the points made in comments that I posted over 9 hours ago!).”

Here is the comment in full, posted in fragments as follows (with emphasis added):

OK, so my later comment from yesterday eventually appears, but not the earlier, more substantive one. I shall try again (in two parts).

Part 1:
Wow, not even a deliberate, glaring error in my first comment from yesterday can provoke a response! Either no one cares or no one is watching who has a thorough understanding of EU law.

As decided by the CJEU in C-274/11, “it must be concluded that the competences conferred by Article 118 TFEU fall within an area of shared competences for the purpose of Article 4(2) TFEU and are, in consequence, non-exclusive for the purpose of the first paragraph of Article 20(1) TEU”.

Thus, the hypothetical arguments based upon Article 118 TFEU and “traditional” EPs don’t work… meaning that more subtle arguments need to be deployed if incompatibilities between the UPCA and EU law are going to stand up.

OK, so my shorter comment makes it through quickly but my longer, more substantive comment still does not appear. I shall assume that the problem is length and not content and will therefore have another go, breaking down my comments even further.

[...]

For me, the major issue with the Unitary Patent Package has still got to be the (impermissible) retroactive application of new / different law to pre-existing cases. The fact that the UPC would (in theory) be free to apply the infringement law of the UPCA to “traditional” EPs in fact makes the effects of retroactivity a lot worse.

To illustrate, consider a pending EP that has the same claims for enough EU Member States to qualify (in theory) for unitary effect. Which law of infringement would you say will be applied (e.g. in the UK) to the claims of that EP, once granted? To me, it seems that there are, in fact, multiple choices.

(1) In this scenario, a request for unitary effect is filed after the patent is granted.

The law of infringement applied by the UPC (the only litigation forum for the “unitary” patent) will then be dictated by Articles 5 and 7 of the UP Regulation. For the sake of simplicity, we shall assume that the patent proprietor has no residence or place of business in the Participating Member States, meaning that the UPC will apply German national law for the purposes of determining infringement.

(2) In this scenario: unitary effect is not requested; no opt-out is filed; and the “traditional” EP patent (the UK validation, plus a handful of other validations) is litigated at the UPC.

Which law of infringement will the UPC apply to the “traditional” EP? Whilst this is a tricky question to answer, we can apply some common sense to work out the most likely result.

Firstly, the UPC will not be bound to apply the same national law as under scenario 1. This is because the UP regulation does not apply to “traditional” EPs.

Secondly, in all likelihood, the UPC will apply a single law… as otherwise there would be no benefit to using a supposedly “unified” court!

Thirdly, Article 24 UPCA provides a hierarchy of laws. With no overarching EU law to consider (as the UP Regulation is irrelevant to “traditional” EPs), the next stop for the UPC will be the UPCA itself (Article 24(1)(b) UPCA).

Thus, in all likelihood, the UPC will apply the infringement law of the UPCA (Articles 24 to 30 UPCA) to all validations of “traditional” EPs that are litigated in that forum.

(3) In this scenario: unitary effect is not requested; no opt-out is filed; and the UK validation of the “traditional” EP patent is litigated at the UK High Court.

Here the answer is simple. The UK High Court will apply UK national law for the purposes of determining infringement. There is simply no basis under UK law for the court to do anything else… not least because the provisions of the UPCA have not been incorporated into UK law (instead, a few “tweaks” have been made that only partially align UK law with the UPCA provisions on infringement).

(4) In this scenario: unitary effect is not requested; an opt-out is filed; and the UK validation of the “traditional” EP patent is litigated at the UK High Court.

Here, the same answer applies as under option 3, namely UK national law will be applied for the purposes of determining infringement.

So, for a single, pending EP, there are actually three possible choices of law of infringement (namely German national law, UPCA law or UK national law) that will be applied in respect of a single territory (the UK). More worryingly, the choice of law will be dictated by post-filing actions of the proprietor, ie whether or not unitary effect is requested, whether or not an opt-out is filed (and, if so, whether or not it is later withdrawn) and/or which litigation venue is selected (from the UPC or national courts).

Remember, national laws of infringement have not been fully harmonised with one another across the Participating Member States, nor have they been fully harmonised with the infringement provisions of the UPCA. Thus, it will make a difference to the outcome which law of infringement is selected.

So, the UPCA coming into force will bring the advent of what I like to call “Schrödinger’s patents”, which are pending EPs whose precise effect upon third parties cannot be fully pinned down until they are actually granted and litigated (at a specific forum). As will be evident from the above, until the proprietor has made final, irreversible choices with regard to all three of unitary effect, opt-out and litigation forum, uncertainties will remain as to the law of infringement that will be applied.

Bringing such “Schrödinger’s patents” to life seems to me to be irreconcilable with the principle of legal certainty, and no doubt countless other provisions and principles of EU law (especially fundamental principles relating to the rule of law). But why has this issue attracted so little attention?

It is about time that this changed, I would say. It would be horrible to “sleepwalk” into a nightmare scenario that might become impossible to wake up from.

We certainly hope that patent examiners understand why British software companies, for instance, dread the UPC and oppose it.

Some more EPO articles are on the way. The big series about Battistelli will start quite soon, culminating some time ahead of the quarterly meeting of the Administrative Council.

Share this post: These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages.
  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • Reddit
  • co.mments
  • DZone
  • email
  • Google Bookmarks
  • LinkedIn
  • NewsVine
  • Print
  • Technorati
  • TwitThis
  • Facebook

If you liked this post, consider subscribing to the RSS feed or join us now at the IRC channels.

Pages that cross-reference this one

What Else is New


  1. IRC Proceedings: Tuesday, October 22, 2019

    IRC logs for Tuesday, October 22, 2019



  2. Why GNU Is Better Staying Top-Down, Even If Free Software Isn't

    "Open Source is like a broken record, and it is a broken promise. If you want to fail, follow them -- they will show you the way."



  3. Guest Article: Why Users Must Dictate the Free Software Movement

    "Recently, a person named Eric Lundgren completed his jail sentence just for copying and distributing Microsoft software which is available for free in their website"



  4. Links 22/10/2019: MX-19, Tails 4, Mesa 19.1.8 Released

    Links for the day



  5. “Stallman Was Right” is Not Just a Meme as It's Usually True

    The track record of Stallman isn't immaculate, but it's exceptionally good if not impressive



  6. EPO Diplomatic Immunity

    What people can get away with at the European Patent Office (EPO) if their name is Battistelli or António Campinos



  7. Dr. Ingve Björn Stjerna Reveals How the German Government Actively Ignored SMEs to Push the Notorious 'Unitary Patent' Sham

    Turning European Patents (which are no longer good patents but expensive or overpriced patent monopolies — patents which European courts will likely reject) into “unitary” ones (i.e. enforceable EU-wide with one legal action) would harm wrongly-accused parties that mostly or only operate in one single country, overriding the authority of those parties’ national laws and courts



  8. Links 22/10/2019: Pacman 5.2, Shame of Disney+ DRM, Microsoft's DRM Scheme, Microsoft Reprimanded for Privacy Abuses

    Links for the day



  9. Patents Need to Exist Only to Pass Information Around and Keep Good Ideas Alive, Not to Feed Litigation Firms and Litigation 'Enthusiasts'

    The current situation or the status quo where legal professionals are advised not to even look at patents means that patents aren’t for “information” and “innovation” anymore; moreover, calling them “intellectual property rights” (or IPRs) is spreading a malicious lie



  10. IRC Proceedings: Monday, October 21, 2019

    IRC logs for Monday, October 21, 2019



  11. SUEPO Protest Tomorrow. All EPO Staff in Munich Ought to Attend and Prepare to Strike Too.

    Tomorrow’s planned protest should be a bridge towards a full strike, which takes more time to plan for and get authorisation for (because of increasingly strict restrictions)



  12. Looking for Explanations About Samsung's DeX and Other FOSS Initiatives Being Canned

    DeX was primarily a threat to the desktop/laptop monopoly of Microsoft, so its sudden abandonment — without even an explanation — continues to attract speculations



  13. EPO Will Need a Lot More Than Photo Ops and Hoax 'Studies' to Restore the Perception of Lawfulness

    Battistelli‘s illegal attacks on European Patent Office (EPO) judges have tarnished any impression that the EPO serves justice and the current regime torpedoes an assessment of these attacks; EPO workers understand that to follow guidelines from the management may be a breach of the EPC



  14. Links 21/10/2019: More on DeX, Disney DRM and Linux 5.4 RC4

    Links for the day



  15. GNU/Linux is Bigger Than Ever (Used More Than Ever Before), But Communication Means and Brands Have Changed

    The GNU/Linux market is alive and healthy; it's how we measure its health that ought to adapt because things are constantly changing, more rapidly in the realm of technology than anywhere else



  16. IRC Proceedings: Sunday, October 20, 2019

    IRC logs for Sunday, October 20, 2019



  17. Samsung Does Not Say Why It's Dropping DeX, But the ASUS EEE Story Might Offer Clues

    It's not at all outlandish or unreasonable to suggest that Microsoft used patents or bribes or kickbacks as incentives for Samsung to abandon GNU/Linux as a desktop platform



  18. EPO: It's Only Getting Worse

    Inhaling Seagull meme for EPO presidents



  19. It Has Begun: EPO Staff Protests Against António Campinos (Starting Wednesday)

    Wednesday marks the resumption of EPO protests; it’s happening for the first time under Campinos and only a year after he took Office. Even Battistelli, the notorious thug, lasted longer before such escalations/actions or — put another way — he did better than that (if one checks the timeline of his presidency)



  20. Links 20/10/2019: GNU/Linux at Penn Manor School District, Wine-Staging 4.18, Xfce 4.16 Development, FreeBSD 12.1 RC2

    Links for the day



  21. Guest Post: Understanding Autism for More Complete Inclusion

    "...assuming that autistic people are all the same isn't only technically wrong, it is misleading and leads to harmful and needless misunderstandings."



  22. Guest Post: Free Software Freedom is Not a Freedom of Choice

    The concept of "Freedom of Choice" and how the ruling class uses it to give a false impression of "Freedom"



  23. Guest Post: Free Software Developers and Pursuing 'Market Share'

    "The only people interested in software freedom are (almost always) free software developers. And users are interested in freedom to a very limited extent: the "free beer" side. Even many free software developers are only interested in the "free beer" part of free software."



  24. The Assertion That Microsoft Uses Communist Tactics Against GNU/Linux and Free/Libre Software

    A study of Taistoism might help understand how Free/libre software is being undermined



  25. European Patent Office and US Patent and Trademark Office Cranks Discovered Buzzwords, Stopped Worrying, Started Granting Patents They Know to be Fake

    The world's patent repositories are being saturated with loads of junk patents or patents that have no legal bearing but can still be leveraged for extortion purposes; the EPO is resorting to lies and artificially-elevated buzzwords to justify granting such fake (yet ruinous) patents



  26. IRC Proceedings: Saturday, October 19, 2019

    IRC logs for Saturday, October 19, 2019



  27. “The True Hypocrite is the One Who Ceases to Perceive His Deception, the One Who Lies With Sincerity,” Said André Paul Guillaume Gide (Nobel Prize in Literature)

    Lies flow like water in the realm of EPO and its publishers, whose sole role is dissemination of deliberate falsehoods, misnomers and misinformation



  28. The EPO Cannot Guard Fake European Patents From Scrutiny (in the Long Run)

    Legal certainty associated with newly-granted European Patents is already pretty low and as long as the EPO refuses to acknowledge that its courts (or boards) lack autonomy the EPO merely brushes a growing problem under the rug



  29. Links 19/10/2019: DeX Discontinued, DXVK 1.4.3 and Wine 4.18 Released

    Links for the day



  30. 'Corporate Linux' Will Not Protect Software Freedom

    The corporate model is inherently not compatible with software that users themselves fully control (or Software Freedom in general), so we must rely on another model of sovereignty over code and compiled code (binaries)


RSS 64x64RSS Feed: subscribe to the RSS feed for regular updates

Home iconSite Wiki: You can improve this site by helping the extension of the site's content

Home iconSite Home: Background about the site and some key features in the front page

Chat iconIRC Channel: Come and chat with us in real time

Recent Posts