Joff Wild

The FFII is a tricky organisation to work out sometimes. On the one hand, it seems to adopt a knee-jerk negative position on any initiative designed to improve the patent system in Europe, have a propensity to see everything as a plot to introduce software patents and pander to the anti-Americanism of some European politicians. But on the other hand, it can come up with an idea such as the European Patent Conference, which is to be held in Brussels on 15th and 16th of May. This looks like being a fascinating two-days of discussion about the future of Europe's patent system involving people representing a wide range of opinions. Quoted in the press release announcing the event FFII president Pieter Hintjens says:

"Until recently the European patent system seemed to be leaping, eyes closed, over the cliff in an imitation of US pratice. Now both sides of the Atlantic are looking for reform. We want a fresh, transatlantic debate to learn from each other's mistakes and best practices ... Much dialogue on patents is dominated by patent bureaucrats and attorneys. But we must discuss the future of the patent system openly, and embrace change where needed. Patents are economic tools, so we must measure them by their ability to drive innovation in today's diverse markets ..."

Most of which, though not all, makes perfect sense to me. Above all else, in the often fractious world of patent politics, discussion and dialogue are clearly the best way to move forward. A consensus for reform is emerging around the world, the issues are what exactly should be reformed and how should this be done?

My guess is that there will not be much agreement on fundamentals over the two days of the conference; but really - at the moment - this is not the point. When you are face-to-face and talking it is much harder to maintain entrenched positions and to ignore what other people are saying. It is hugely encouraging to see that representatives from industry, the FFII, the EPO and national patent offices, and the Commission will be sharing platforms at this event. The FFII deserves to be congratulated for this initiative which, hopefully, will get the support it deserves.