EuroParl Report: Commission & Council codifying EPO's US patent practice

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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:

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