07 Apr 2006
On May 3 and 4, 2006, the European Commission and the European Patent Office will jointly present the European Inventor of the Year Conference & Gala.
There is no question that the world in general needs innovation, and so does Europe. I am all for honoring true inventors. However, this particular award series and event looks, at least in part, like an attempt to reinforce some common misconceptions and fallacies concerning innovation policy.
The involvement of the European Patent Office and the selection of nominees based on the patents they received makes a connection between patents and inventiveness that is only half-true at best. While the official and original idea of the patent system is to protect and reward inventors, the reality of more than 180,000 patent applications filed at the EPO per year (and that number is still growing) suggests that the fewest patents actually stand for true inventions. Companies increasingly invent patents instead of patenting inventions.
A few days ago I had a series of meetings in the European Parliament, and I heard that Microsoft and SAP are already lobbying politicians to support the European Patent Litigation Agreement (EPLA).
There are still three days left to answer the European Commission's patent policy questionnaire, but it's a foregone conclusion that the pro-software patent camp wants the EPLA more than anything else.
Let's forget about the community patent for the time being. Yes, officially it's the priority of the EU, but it isn't going to happen anytime soon. There is too much resistance against it. The FFII and I will keep an eye on developments concerning the community patent, and you'll hear from us if anything important happens on that front, but my recommendation is that most of us take it off the radar screen.
European Patent Litigation Agreement: the name says it all. It's all about litigation. If it were to be ratified in any form near the current draft, there would be a flood of software patent lawsuits in Europe.