Joff Wild

I got an intriguing email this afternoon. Here it is:

20 June 2007 in Strasbourg: reception and briefing for Parliamentarians on the future of patents in Europe.

The European Green Alliance, IBM and EUPACO present the first in a series of briefings for key European Parliamentarians on the future of the European patent system.

"The patent system, and the need for a balance between the disclosure of inventions and rights that are granted is of vital importance to the European economy. Parliamentarians must help to shape Europe's patent system and ensure that the right balance is struck; that real invention is rewarded while society benefits. It is crucial that Europe moves forward in developing its patent system within the fabric of European democracy."

Speakers:

* Dave Kappos, IBM's vice President for Intellectual Property

* Ingrid Schneider, political scientist, University of Hamburg

* Pieter Hintjens, EUPACO Chairman,

Open to all, location to be announced. Please register online at www.eupaco.org.

It’s from Pieter Hintjens, who as well as being the chairman of EUPACO, is also the president of the FFII – which has very successfully spearheaded the campaign against software patents in Europe over recent years.

Now I can understand why Hintjens, the FFII and the European Green Alliance might have problems with Europe’s patent system, and why they may want the European Parliament to have a much greater say in how it operates – MEPs, after all, are not known for their mastery of patent topics and may be easier to influence than those with a greater understanding of the issues – but I am not sure what IBM gains from getting MEPs to “help to shape Europe's patent system and ensure that the right balance is struck."

It would be interesting to know what problems IBM has with the European patent system at the moment, outside the obvious ones of high costs and long delays. Does the company which probably owns more patents for software and computer implemented inventions than any other in the world want greater restrictions in Europe, ones which would probably lead to the invalidation of rights it currently owns? Does it have issues with overall quality standards at the EPO or worries about patentability in areas such as biotechnology?

I suppose Dave Kappos will reveal more on 20th June. Clearly there are some serious issues, otherwise IBM would not be so involved with organisations that have shown themselves to be very hostile to elements of Europe's patent regime in the past. It will be fascinating to hear what he has to say.