03.20.09

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European Patent Office Continues March for Software Patents

Posted in Europe, Microsoft, Patents at 8:42 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

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Summary: The Community patent, which the EPO almost endorses now, is a back door to software patents

THE EPO has been making suspicious moves recently [1, 2]. It is almost opening its doors to software patents without the necessary consultation.

Watch this strategy document [PDF] which states: “The IPR system also needs to be improved by the creation of a Community patent for innovative ICT companies to protect their inventions in the single market (14).” Benjamin from Digital Majority found it and he also spotted this from the EPO’s Web site:

The EPO also welcomes the emphasis the report places on the need for the creation of a Community patent, and a centralised, specialised European patent judiciary.

This is cause for pause concern. The StopSoftwarePatents Web site has issued this warning which heralds: “Commission says the Community Patent is all about Software Patents.”

The European Commission has issued a communication asking for the creation of the Community Patent in order for “ICT companies to protect their inventions in the single market”. Large companies were rejecting the software patent directive, aiming to validate software patents via the Community Patent and skip the debate about patentable subject matter.

This comes after heavy lobbying from Microsoft-hired lobbyists and 'innovation' parties that are quite openly about lobbying politicians. This is a serious problem that TechDirt wrote about a couple of days ago. It stated:

Since When Did We Give Lobbyists From The Tech, Entertainment And Pharma Industries Security Clearance?

With the new administration sticking by the old one in declaring negotiations over the ACTA treaty somehow a matter of national security as a way of avoiding revealing any info about the proposed treaty or its ongoing negotiations, the folks over at KEI have pointed out the long list of corporate lobbyists who have been involved in the negotiations, including those from the RIAA, MPAA, ESA and a long list of tech, telco and pharma companies.

The EPO is already attempting to cover its back. As IDG points out, the latest tune from the EPO is that the number of granted patents declined last year and therefore — hopes the EPO — people might believe that quality of patents has improved.

The European Patent Office rejected more patent applications than it passed for the first time last year, in an effort to raise the quality bar in the European Union.

The number of applicants was larger than in 2007, the EPO said in a statement.

This number means absolutely nothing if abstract ideas pertaining to software become patentable. They rely on the wrong yardstick amid tough economic times in order to defend their practices. Patenting is just not a priority for many companies right now; litigation, on the other hand, might be.

“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

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2 Comments

  1. André said,

    March 20, 2009 at 9:37 am

    Gravatar

    Let me clarify:

    * The EPO is not part of the EU framework and thus has limited interest in the EU community patent or any initiative as part of the EU framework unless the Commission and Council bow down to the EPO leadership and won’t strengthen the role of national patent offices.

    * “opening its doors to software patents without the necessary consultation.” –> They have a process for the Brimelow referral G03/08. However, this is not “political”.

    * Microsoft is not lobbying much on that. If they do, then because they reflect public preconceptions about what Microsoft is supposed to want here.

    * As of the Commission Communication document consider what department it comes from and what the main objective of the report is: “A Strategy for ICT R&D and Innovation in Europe: Raising the Game”. You will hardly find a EU innovation policy document that does not mention patents one way or the other and it is pretty low level. Also for the Czech presidency the project is almost faded out. What it is indeed about is ICT keynesianism and observers are right when they find key industry lobby messages reflected.

  2. Roy Schestowitz said,

    March 20, 2009 at 11:58 am

    Gravatar

    Glyn adds: “EPO allowance rate falls beneath 50% for the first time… harder to get patents in Europe…but not hard enough.”

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