EU Patent Policy criticised at the public hearing
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During the EU patent policy hearing on 12 July, the Foundation for a Free
Information Infrastructure (FFII) criticised The European Patent Office
(EPO) and the proposed European Patent Litigation Agreement (EPLA) which
would put the new centralised European Patent Court under EPO control.
FFII considers that EPLA would first of all make any litigation 2-3 times
more expensive (according to EPO itself) bringing an additional burden to
SMEs when enforcing a patent as well as in situations when they must defend
themselves against a patent infringement accusation.
The EPLA would give EPO even more power than it already has. The same people
who are now running the EPO will be in charge of choosing judges for the new
European Patent Court and the same individuals acting as judges will be
allowed to work for the EPO as well.
FFII board member Jonas Maebe said: “We have warned many times about the
dangers of an unaccountable and over-ambitious EPO. Not only has the EPO
changed its own rules to allow software and business method patents, it
became actively involved in EU politics last year when it spent huge amounts
of money to lobby the European Parliament in favour of the software patents
The European Commission seems to have a contradictory attitude towards this
matter. It has presented EPLA as a way to optimize the European patent
system and Commissioner McCreevy expressed his support for EPLA considering
it a promising route forwards.
On the other hand, in the extended consultation documentation on Patent
Policy, the Commission stated about EPO: ” Whilst being basically a patent
granting office, the EPO has ambitions to steer patent policy at European
and international levels. It has a business culture of its own with very
little understanding for what happens in Brussels in a more global context.”
Another inconsistent attitude of the Commission is the action of carrying
out a second consultation round, behind the curtain, providing support to
some 600 SMEs known to hold patents or be involved in patent litigation
According to FFII researcher Benjamin Henrion, the Commission promoted its
own SMEs answers and discounted the collective answers provided by FFII
which had used many man days to prepare them and which were supported by
over a thousand SMEs.
Even so, the SMEs targeted by the Commission reached the same conclusions as
the FFII. They saw the danger of legalising software patents through both
the Community Patent and the EPLA enforcement. Therefore, the Commission
discredited their opinion as well considering these SMEs did not understand
the patent system.
The EPO is also criticised for granting patents with too broad a scope thus
creating concerns for free-software advocates who believe that, under EPLA,
more software and business method-type patents will be given.
Concerns were expressed also by the representative of Nokia who expressed
Nokia’s worry related to a pan-European litigation process that would be
disruptive for its business, as, generally, the company enforces its patents
one country at a time.
Florian Mueller , the anti-software patent campaigner who was one of those
to address the hearing, predicted that the next step for the Commission
would be to establish if EU needs to be involved in finalising and applying
FFII statement given at EU patent policy hearing (12.07.2006)
EPO dogmatic, short-sighted and power-hungry, says European Commission
Commission Cheats European SMEs in Patent Consultation (10.07.2006)
EC begins new pan-European patent love-in (13.07.2006)