EU-wide patents 'move closer'

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'

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".


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