EU-wide patents 'move closer'

EU-wide patents 'move closer'

Summary: With the Community Patent gathering pace, one campaigner warns that the European Patent Litigation Agreement could open the door to a 'flood of software patent lawsuits in Europe'

TOPICS: Government UK

The European Commission claimed this week that it was moving closer to passing legislation that would allow inventors to obtain a single patent that is legally valid throughout the European Union.

Gunter Verheugen, the vice-president of the EC, said on Tuesday he was "slightly more optimistic" about reaching an agreement about the Community Patent legislation, according to PC Advisor magazine.

The EC also reiterated the need for the Community Patent legislation in a statement on Tuesday.

"The adoption of the Community Patent would reduce the costs of patenting as well as increase legal security for European enterprises in general. This would certainly contribute to a better protection of intellectual property in Europe," the EC said.

Software patent campaigners have previously warned that this law would ratify the European Patent Office's practice of granting software patents, and could therefore legalise software patents, despite the European Parliament's defeat of the software patent directive last year.

But Florian Mueller, the founder of, said on Wednesday that he is no longer too worried about the Community Patent legislation, as it "doesn't have much political backing right now".

Mueller is more concerned about the European Patent Litigation Agreement (EPLA). EPLA is a proposed agreement that, if agreed by European countries, would result in the creation of a European Patent Court that would have jurisdiction over the validity and infringement of patents issued by the European Patent Office. This agreement would also slip sofware patents through the back door, according to Mueller.

"The usual suspects who supported the software patent directive are now all behind the European Patent Litigation Agreement. Microsoft, SAP, the giants of the electronics industry, the patent bureaucracy, attorneys' associations — they all want the EPLA, and hardly anyone wants the Community Patent itself," said Mueller in an email.

Last month, Mueller warned software patent campaigners to focus their attention on lobbying against the EPLA, rather than the Community Patent legislation.

"The EPLA is the new attempt to make software patents enforceable in Europe," he said in his blog. "If we talk and think too much about the community patent, we only distract ourselves from the new row over software patents in Europe, which has already begun and which is all about the EPLA."

He also warned that if the EPLA is ratified it would result in a "flood of software patent lawsuits in Europe".

Topic: Government UK

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  • On the 5th of May no less the reports comes in that yet again politicians and other forms of burocrats have fallen victim to the slaughter of commercial enterprise lobbiests. How sad a day can be. How easily politicians sell out on human (consumer) rights paid for with blood some sixty years or so ago. What's so difficult to just say no to this new addiction called software patents? Can't they see that they are being lobbied into this? For obvious reasons? Who votes for this people anyway? What's the next mantra coming elections? Wir habben das nicht gewust? Poor excuse in my view. There's no excuse for ignorance.
  • What a load of one-sided drivel!

    "Software patent campaigners have previously warned that this law would ratify the European Patent Office's practice of granting software patents" - actually this wouldn't change the granting of European Patents (which have been around since 1977) at all. What it would do is allow someone to get a single court decision for the whole patent, rather than having to go to each country individually.

    Suppose (at the moment) that you want to invalidate a 'software patent' (maybe because you think that it doesn't really have a technical contribution - it's pure software). Suppose you go to the High Court in the UK and win - the European Patent is no longer valid in the UK. The patent might still be valid in France and Germany - with exactly the same wording. If you wanted to fight it in those countries, you would need to go to the courts there, and there is no guarantee that the decision would go the same way. This leads to uncertainty - the same patent is valid in some countries but not others.

    If the EPLA is agreed, there will be a single European Patent Court who would make one decision for the whole of the European Patent. Sure, you may still disagree with that decision. But it would be a lot cheaper to get that one decision than lots of individual national ones, and you would have a decision that makes more sense - either the patent is valid, or it isn't.
  • IF A has a patent in Italy and B has the patent in France, who takes precedent?
  • Not sure what you mean, Steve.

    If they were both filed at the same time, then they run concurrently - A can enforce the patent in his jurisdiction (Italy?), and B in his (France?). So, if you wanted to sell a product incorporating the invention in Italy, you would need a licence from A. If you wanted to sell it in France, you need a licence from B. If you want to sell it in Germany, then you don't need a licence from either of them (assuming that there is no equivalent patent in Germany).

    On the other hand, if A's patent was published before B's was filed, then B's patent might be invalid. However, this doesn't affect A's patent, which still applies to Italy only (i.e. A doesn't get to 'take' B's patent, like you would in a game of cards!)
  • Divide and conquer. With EU wide (software) patent legislation it'll be a matter of time before well sponsored lobbiest and laywers will start exploiting loopholes in the weakest links of the chain they can find. And once that's done the whole EU can "benefit" from it. No thanks.

    EU wide legislation would give a huge stick to the bigger cooperations to beat the smaller guys over the head with. Don't do their bidding? They'll sue you with dozens of their own "patents". Sue them? They'll bleed you dry in court no matter how right you are. My pocket is deeper then yours, baby. There's modern justice for you. Even better, using your own tax money against you.

    They'll be pouring in money to local authorities that handle their EU wide (software) patent applications the quickest and with the least amount of hazzle. Maybe on paper it'll look that everyone will get the same treatment etc everywhere but that won't be the case in reality.

    What's to protect us from such abuse? The same people that went along with software patents in the first place. And the same people that convict and condemn yet still reward (by not making it not profitable) abuse of rules and regulations by big cooperations. Boy, do I feel re-assured now.

    Big commercial organizations have been investing huge amounts of effort and money in this software patent thing already. They're willing to spend much much more. Why? Because they don't want a huge return on investment in return? How can they be so certain of such a huge return in investment?

    Why is it that most of the big commercial organizations (and patent offices. Duh!) want software patents so bad and most of the smaller organizations (where most of the national cash flow and jobs come from) want to keep existing (copyright) laws? How should our democratic EU politicians react to that?

    What the EU should do is to ban software patents all together because if they don't the well sponsored lobbiests will be pushing and crawling until they'll get what they want. Such costly distraction from more important matters should be stopped dead in its tracks sooner then later.