UN-style patent body a 'pipe dream'

Intellectual property laws are subject to sovereign states to enact and enforce, so to standardize such legislations and enforce them via an international patent body will be highly difficult to achieve.


As the global business community continues to struggle against patent lawsuits which straddle across multiple countries and jurisdictions, industry watchers believe creating a centralized patent body in the mold of the United Nations will not work as common patent laws will be difficult to establish and enforce.

Henry Dewing, infrastructure and operations analyst at Forrester Research, said the international, UN-like patent body will have to be objective as a third-party, and able to settle disputes fairly, wisely and efficiently.

This is merely a "pipe dream" though, given that the organization would be even more cumbersome to implement than the current system of allowing respective countries to resolve patent disputes in their courts, Dewing stated.

For instance, if a patent case needs to be resolved and the dispute is filed with this international body, all countries involved would need to recognize the patent body's authority and this adds another layer of international cooperation to the existing patent system, he pointed out.

Daniel Nazer, staff attorney at the Electric Frontier Foundation (EFF), added patent laws are ultimately domestic laws and it would be difficult to standardize these laws to accommodate everyone.

He added the formation of the UN-style patent body is a "terrible idea" since it does not have jurisdiction and cannot adjudicate over international patent disputes.

Nazer also believes the current World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), which administers a number of IP property treaties including some relating to patents, is sufficient to promote the protection of IP. It does not, however, get involve with the resolution if patent disputes, he added.

WIPO is an agency which operates within the United Nations.

Patent system needs more openness
That said, the current patent system needs to be more open, streamlined, and strike a balance to encourage companies to innovate and continue moving economies forward, Dewing observed.

Elaborating, Nazer said international treaties today ratchet up IP protections without considering the views and concerns of civil society and the public interest at large. For example, the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is being negotiated in secret without public knowledge, he pointed out.

The TPP is a free trade agreement currently being negotiated by nine countries: United States, Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. It covers a wide range of issues, including IP rights and enforcement, according to Public Knowledge, an organization which seeks to "preserve the openness of the Internet and the public's access to knowledge".

It is only by ensuring patent laws are open and balanced can the world set a level playing field for innovation on which all players can succeed and excel, Dewing stated.

If every innovation is given 20 years of exclusivity, it becomes impossible to develop new products without infringing thousands of patents, he added. In the U.S., for example, a flood of "vague and overbroad" software patents have led to the rise of patent trolling by entities that do not create any product but buy patents just to make money through winning patent infringement lawsuits, he said .