EuroParl Report: Commission & Council codifying EPO's US patent practice
Brussels, 16 February 2005 -- "If we adopt the current proposal, it will create the same broad and ambiguous system that is in place in America", thus concludes a report ordered by the European Parliament's Directorate General for Economic and Scientific Policy for involved Members of the European Parliament. Politicians are also invited to think about a faster and cheaper system which avoids the mistakes the US made.
Amidst the turmoil surrounding the Council debacles, an extensive report written for the EP's DG for Economic and Social Policy shows how the Commission and Council proposals would simply enshrine the practice of the European Patent Office. The author, Sandra R. Paulsson, compares this practice to US case law, and concludes that "most business methods granted in America would also be patentable at ![the] EPO, because they are seen as a process."
Additionally, the author also debunks the often heard argument that the only reason that !SMEs are opposed to software patents is the fact that they are simply not well informed about how such patents would benefit them. By looking at the large number of patents which can be applicable to a single software product and the fact that big companies are "using their broad patents and demand a licensing fee from !SMEs, in combination with a threat to sue them if they do not pay, or ![to] buy up the small companies", it becomes clear that the !SMEs' concerns are quite legitimate.
Arguing that Europe should learn from the US' mistakes instead of blindly repeating them, the author notes that Europe should work on a faster and cheaper patent system with more narrow protection scopes. The FFII agrees that a system with such properties -- fast, cheap, narrow -- is much more suited for the protection of investments in software, given the high rate of innovation and low entry barrier. This also explains the success of the use of copyright in this area, given that it's free, instantaneous and quite narrow.
FFII's president Hartmut Pilch comments:
- The Parliament's report has identified the problems and specifies what the deliverables of "intellectual property" in the 21st century should be: "fast, cheap, narrow". The FFII has been developing proposals for a future system of intellectual property that fulfills the specifications: an alternative in which the rest of the world could indeed follow Europe, which lowers the entry barrier, diminishes transaction costs, does not suffer from the inherent broadness of the patent system, nor from the endless examination delays. Currently being developed under the working title "Industrial Copyright", to stress its goal of being fast-cheap-narrow, the work in progress can
be monitored online at http://wiki.ffii.org/IndpropEn. We hope that our next conference, to be held in Brussels later this year, will focus on this subject, and we are happy to see that the same thoughts are appearing independently in the research departments of the European Parliament. If the much-cited "Lisbon Strategy" is to become a serious strategy in the area of the knowledge economy, then this is the kind of subject that must be put on the agenda.