03.19.10

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Patents Roundup: Europe, ACTA, Aldi Attacked by the MPEG Cartel, and More

Posted in Europe, Law, Patents, Videos at 11:32 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

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Summary: Europe’s policy on software patents and the ACTA factor; the MPEG patent pool turns out to be not much of a sleeping giant but an awake one; patents relating to cancer genes continue to needlessly cost lives

Microsoft keeps struggling to change Europe’s patent law and enable taxation of Free software. The FFII’s president, Benjamin Henrion, has tracked some of the latest developments in that regard; they happen to include ACTA.

“Just heard one guy on RTBF Purefm from an anti-piracy org in Belgium that they were pushing for “technical measures” on the ISPs (filtering),” said Henrion, who added that the “European Parliament ITRE committee [is] promoting interoperability and technological neutrality”; he skeptically points to this document [PDF] from the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy. ACTA booster Paul Rübig [1, 2] is the reporter and here is the text which alludes to patents (inside “interoperability”):

SUGGESTIONS

The Committee on Industry, Research and Energy calls on the Committee on Legal Affairs, as the committee responsible, to incorporate the following suggestions in its motion for a resolution:

Recommends that the Commission should:

1. Promote availability of EU-wide licenses for intellectual property rights (IPR);
2. Consider, as a step towards an internal market for IPR, licenses based on the original language, enabling a licensee for a work in one language to distribute it across the EU in that language;
3. Promote interoperability and technological neutrality, allowing content covered by IPR to be distributed regardless of technology or format used, and allowing convertibility of content between formats;
4. Maintain strong protection of IPR while facilitating legal use of works through easily available, one-stop, EU-wide licensing options, supported by transparency regarding the holders of the IPR;
5. Consider effective sanctions to deter infringement of copyright and prevent the losses caused to rights holders as a result, while upholding the principle that, for example, communications providers are mere conduits and as such not liable for infringement occurring through or facilitated by their services;
6. Make full use of sanctions available to it under competition and trade law where relevant;
7. Include, where relevant, an evaluation of the impact relating to IPR, in particular with respect to small and medium-sized enterprises, in all impact assessments;
8. Contribute, through the European Counterfeiting and Piracy Observatory, to the development of common standard procedures and criteria to enable the production of reliable and comparable data on the occurrence and value of counterfeiting and piracy across sectors.

FFII Greece has this new article describing the patent situation in Europe:

This is a presentation I made at an open source conference in Greece, 13 March 2010, at TEI of Piraeus.

Getting involved with software patents seems boring, and, unfortunately, it is, at least for me. I’m a computer professional and I like writing code. I’m a Python/Django fan, and I’m involved in a couple of free software projects. One of them is a state project (and it’s free because I took the opportunity to move it towards the right direction when I saw that the right people were in the right positions). I don’t like politics and legal issues much. However, I do occasionally mess around with copyrights and patents; not because I like it, but because I like being free, and it is a price I pay to defend my freedom.

[...]

I’m in Greece, I create a new invention, and I patent it at the Greek Industrial Property Organisation. What happens in other countries? Could someone from Italy copy my invention? The answer is they can, because the Greek patent is only valid in Greece. In order to solve this problem, many European countries signed the European Patent Convention (EPC) in 1973. Under the EPC, the European Patent Office (EPO) was born. If you are granted a patent by the EPO, then it is practically valid in all countries that have signed the EPC.

Note that the EPC is not a European Union treaty, but a treaty of the 36 countries that have signed it. The EPO is not an EU institution, but an international institution of the 36 countries that have signed the EPC.

“Since EPO failed to change the law, they then attempted to change the court,” quotes Henrion from the article above. This leads us to discussing the ACTA, which has a European Parliament meeting scheduled for 2 weeks from now (Room ASP 1G2).

Henrion has transcoded the following video, which he says is about “Punishing Patent Pirates with freeze of bank accounts.”


Direct link (“European Parliament about ACTA: Punishing Computer Pirates”)

The original video was in a Microsoft format (more here). Henrion claims that “Microsoft sponsors the European Parliament’s infrastructure, so now 600M EU citizens have to pay.” He also shows this parliamentary questioning where the “European Commission confirms they won’t give the ACTA documents to the public, since other countries oppose [it].”

Lastly, and also via Henrion, this article in German shows “ALDI threatened by MPEGLA in Dusseldorf court, the European version of the Eastern District of Texas.”

In this decent new recording, Novell’s former community manager for OpenSUSE asks: “What’s Bilski got to do with open source?”

Joe ‘Zonker’ Brockmeier speaks with Aaron Williamson, counsel at the Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC).

The session was very good and interesting, but ironically, it’s available only in MP3 format (needs software patents). They should look at that new Aldi case for insight into the ramifications. The MPEG-LA-LA Land is mostly promoted by companies like Microsoft and Apple.

The creator of the World Wide Web says that “software patents are a terrible thing”, but often we forget about the patents that actually kill people. We previously gave examples where treatment of cancer was impeded by patents [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7]. This mostly revolves around a very controversial patent that we mentioned before and is now mentioned in Reuters [via].

New Study Points Out That Gene Patent On Trial Is Very, Very Broad

Myriad Genetics’ disputed patent on the BRCA1 breast cancer gene is “surprisingly broad” and could interfere with future research, three experts said on Tuesday.

They are killing people by obstructing doctors rather than saving lives. ACTA may have a similar effect. Patents and life are sometimes incompatible. How about those fashion patents that we sometimes mention? Some people already strive to obtain copyrights on clothes.

Basically, Suk’s whole position is based on the fact that the monopoly rents of designers is decreased by a lack of copyright, but she fails to consider that this leads to greater and more frequent innovation (which we see all the time in the market). What’s even stranger is that she flip-flops her argument in the middle of the paper. She talks repeatedly about how designers need big profits to have the incentive to innovate, but then says that big designers aren’t the ones really threatened. Instead, she claims, it’s the smaller designers. But, those designers didn’t have those big profits to protect in the first place. They’re out there trying to make a name for themselves by designing something new and cool — so they have plenty of incentive to innovate. And if their design this year is copied, that’s great for them because it gives them greater recognition and means the demand for their original products will be even greater the following season.

Do we want to live in a world where knitting can become a punishable offense for ‘infringing’ someone’s design? Seriously, when did the patent system lose sight of its original goals? It’s not there to assist big businesses; rather, it’s intended to protect small businesses with from the minority of the opulent.

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