08.03.15

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The World is Changing and Patent Law Can Change Either for Better or for Worse

Posted in America, Europe, Patents at 7:34 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: Recent secret dealings (which are being exposed to the public owing to whistle-blowers) show the degree of coordination and collusion against public interests; it’s up to us, the majority, to fight back and tackle this injustice

THE world’s disparate legal systems are under attack from so-called ‘trade’ deals and their dirty dealers. We hardly ever cover this subject (except in daily links), but almost everyone knows the impact of these, owing in part to leaks and public demonstrations which raise awareness. One goal is globalisation (in the negative sense) and a method that is trending these days is ‘harminisation’ of laws across nations and continents, almost always in a way that makes them more corporations-leaning and plutocrats-friendly. It’s not surprising considering who works on these deals in secret. These conspirators are bypassing democracy because they want more for themselves and less for the rest of us. It has a lot to do with patents, which are codified into law to legalise monopolisation, i.e. marginalisation of challenge or competition (even from government, as ISDS comes to demonstrate).

Last week we wrote about what was happening in New Zealand. The so-called ‘trade’ deals can potentially bring software patents to New Zealand. Here is how one news site from New Zealand put it some days ago: “The Foreign Affairs and Trade Ministry won’t say whether New Zealand’s laws on software patents will need to be overhauled if agreement is reached on the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

“Parliament passed a law that outlawed software patents “as such” in 2013. The wording of the law change was a compromise that resulted from years of tortuous debate.

“Trade magazine CIO reported that Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) leaks suggested Mexico was now the only country against allowing software to be patented.

“The important point here is that some companies are starting to distance themselves from the EPO and USPTO.”Here in Europe we already have some loopholes similar to those which exist in New Zealand. These enable some companies to patent software (as long as it’s bound to some unspecified “device”). Europe has the Boards of Appeal (BoA) mechanism for independent/external assessment — not oversight — of the EPO and it too is being crushed right now (recall the BoA’s role in defending against software patents half a decade ago). The BoA is clearly under attack right now, as stories we covered served to show. It wants public input to help save it from the ruthless EPO, which hates to share any of its governance. The European Patent Office is now a totalitarian entity right at the heart of Europe. It must be stopped.

A biased site which targets patent lawyers spoke of an interesting trend the other day, published under the headline “The companies that abandon most US and EPO patents – and shoulder much responsibility for raising quality” (the latter part is spin).

The important point here is that some companies are starting to distance themselves from the EPO and USPTO. Corporate culture may be evolving for the better. “In the latest issue of IAM magazine,” says the author, “Matthew Beers and Maria Lazarova of Ocean Tomo take a deep-dive look at patent abandonments data from both the USPTO and EPO. The full article contains a wealth of interesting data but, for the purposes of this blog we’ll take a sneak peek at the findings relating to IP owners and which of them abandon the most patents at both agencies. Perhaps unsurprisingly, about half of the top 50 companies by abandonment volume are also in the top 50 by number of applications filed. What’s more, of the top 50 companies by abandonment volume over the period examined by Beers’ and Lazarova’s analysis, well over two-thirds appear among the top abandoners at both the USPTO and the EPO.”

This is bad news for patent lawyers. Over in the US, which expands the USPTO to Silicon Valley (as planned), it is said that there is now “New Guidance on Patent Subject Matter Eligibility”. “On July 30,” writes a site of patent lawyers, “the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) released a set of documents providing examiners and practitioners with additional guidance on patent subject matter eligibility. The July 2015 Update responds to comments received from the public following the USPTO’s issuance of the 2014 Interim Guidance (2014 IEG) on December 26, 2014.”

It sure looks like they are limiting patent scope. The assignment of patents on software really must stop, at the very least because judges deem these patents patent-ineligible, based on the law (they are not patent examiners, but they know the limits of the law and can enforce the law by exercising their duty).

Just the other day we learned that a famed BitTorrent entrepreneur managed to get a patent on P2P live streaming. TorrentFreak said this “may be the start of a new breakthrough,” but we hardly feel excited by the passage of yet another patent on software. This really ought to stop and a good start would be scrutiny of the ‘trade’ deals, those who facilitate them, the USPTO, the EPO, and politicians who push for the UPC (essentially another so-called ‘harmonisation’ of law and courts framework). There are many powerful and selfish forces looking to gain power and money at the expense of everybody else, especially scientists. As we are by far the majority, we can repeatedly beat those relentless forces. From awareness comes anger and when the majority is angry the evil forces become fearful and often retreat (see ACTA).

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