'Deceptive' patent lobbying sparks calls for transparency

'Deceptive' patent lobbying sparks calls for transparency

Summary: The Green Party claims that European politicians faced deceptive lobbying from campaign groups during the battles over the software patent directive

TOPICS: Government UK

The Green Party has called for greater transparency in political lobbying following the tactics of some campaign groups during the debating of the software patent directive.

The directive was rejected by the European Parliament last week, in what was considered a victory for anti-patent campaigners.

Eva Lichtenberger, an Austrian MEP from the Greens/EFA party, said that some lobby groups had carried out misleading campaigns. She called for anti-fraud commissioner Siim Kallas, who recently launched the European Transparency Initiative, to investigate the activities of patent lobby groups.

"Before today MEPs were bombarded by a fierce and, in cases, deceptive lobbying campaign. We can only guess the identity of the people lurking behind the scenes," said Lichtenberger.

"It is clear that we now need to create a system to control lobbying in the EU. The system must be transparent and make public the interests and funding of the respective lobby groups. We call upon the commissioner for administrative affairs, Siim Kallas, to investigate these problems and make proposals for the necessary action to take," she said.

A spokesman for CompTIA, which had lobbied in favour of the directive, agreed that transparency is essential. "Transparency in any advocacy programme is important to the integrity of the lobbying process. Deceptive lobbying helps no one, least of all MEPs and policymakers needing information upon which they can make informed decisions," he said.

Hartmut Pilch, the president of Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure (FFII) — which opposed the directive — said he was unhappy with some of the media reporting around the software patent directive.

Pilch cited a Sunday Express article from 5 June which reported that the EU wanted to ban companies from patenting any high-tech device that uses software.

"Abolishing intellectual property sounds very attractive on a superficial level since it will make software cheaper and more widely available. But the implications go far beyond computer software and will damage all of the industries in which Europe leads and that means jobs will be lost," said Simon Gentry of the pro-patent lobby group the Campaign for Creativity, according to the Sunday Express article.

Campaign for Creativity did not respond to a request for comment on the Green Party's call for transparency. Pro-patent lobby groups Intellect and EICTA also failed to respond.

Although some MEPs proposed amendments to the software directive that would have restricted the degree to which software could be patented, these amendments would not have prevented companies from patenting devices that contain software.

While Kallas has suggested that voluntary transparency around lobbying may be sufficient, transparency activists Lobby Control and Corporate European Observatory say that mandatory lobbying disclosure is needed.

Topic: Government UK

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  • Nobody is suggesting abolishing intellectual property rights. We already have those rights - it's called copyright.
  • Transparency in Europe is but one os many things that need to be changed in Europe. I just posted a lengthly comment on what I believe should make up e-government as we are doing such a poor job already.

    I can't physically get to the EU and can I rely on the information interprited by the media, well I have a third option and that's my own judgement. I use the internet for this and while it is another media medium I find it more plausabe and far more indepth.

    Get a decent EU website that allows citizens to participate both locally and on the EU scale and you will get your Yes vote, to a constitution all can understand, maybe not agree upon but at least have participated in the consultation.
  • Hear hear. Indeed transparancy is needed so EU politics can regain public trust again.

    The public needs to become more aware who's funding what kind of information our EU politicians get and what kind of impact that has on them and their decision making process. It's my guess that once that's achieved the public will be in for a shock and soon after that a wake up call for the politicians will follow.

    Politicians who would rather like to hide their various information sources are in my book unfitted for such public positions. They aren't called 'public positions' just because that sounds nice, you see.

    Disclosure is simply required because what do they have to fear or hide anyway? Also, such disclosure should be achieved in various ways via various solutions from various vendors and providers. Just to ensure that no-one can point the finger of 'information control' to anyone.

    Ofcourse there will be moments when certain information needs to be classified for some specific amount of time. But then the grounds for that should at least be listed as well as the conditions that should be met on which disclosure will follow.

    Would the above cost time and money? For sure, but then trust is a vital aspect of democracy.
  • Transparency is part of the constitution in Finland and Sweden since 1666. "Julkisuusperiaate" in Finnish and "Offentlighetsprincipen" are designed to ensure transparency in government. If you look into the history around the necessity for such an article in the constitution, you will find some interesting parallels with today's political situation.

    Maybe the next draft of the European Union's Constitution will have such an article. Many of the scandals, especially those created by the EC, could have been avoided with a little more daylight on the decision making process.

    Great articles Ingrid, more like this please.
  • Correction. 1766 not 1666.