Joff Wild

The Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure (FFII) has stepped up its opposition to the European Patent Litigation Agreement (EPLA) and the current European patent system in general with the launch of two new websites.

Power to the Parliament is what is termed a work in progress but basically outlines what the FFII is looking for with regard to control of the patent system in Europe. Highlights include any future European Patent Court being answerable to the European and national parliaments, which would have the right to override its decisions, if necessary. A privatisation of the examination process at the EPO is also being proposed – although it is not clear what is meant by this.

The other website is called EUPACO – Towards a New European Patent System. It outlines a series of conferences the FFII is organising between November and May 2007 in which delegates will discuss how to fix Europe’s “broken” patent system.

Once again, it seems to me, the FFII is stealing a march on those who wish to see reform to Europe’s system occur within its current framework. I suppose that many in the pro-patent camp (for want of a better description) will be content to sneer from the sidelines and to say that what the FFII is proposing is ridiculous. And maybe it is. But the FFII is shaping the debate again and arguments against their ideas are going to have to be developed. Can you imagine, for example, the European Parliament being opposed to an increase in its powers? No, neither can I; or not unless it is given some very good reasons.

What is also worth pointing out is that in the press release announcing the launch of the EUPACO site, the FFII’s president Pieter Hintjens makes clear that it is not only software patents that are the issue, but all patents and the entire system.“The unrestricted expansion of patentability into non-traditional areas together with the rising flood of poorly granted 'soft' patents in biotech, pharma, and software have throttled innovation,” he said. The fight, in other words, is being broadened, and the FFII is looking for allies beyond its traditional base.

Do the pharmaceutical and biotech industries want the European Parliament to have the final say over what should and should not be patentable? Is the auto industry happy for that to happen? Does the chemical industry believe that politicians should be able to second guess judges? If not, they had better start doing something about it. How about starting by asking how the FFII knows that innovation is being stifled by the current system. What evidence does it have?