ACTA hearing report: Keeping patents above EU control?

FFII was invited by the Swedish justice department to participate in a hearing on ACTA - the question was simply if Sweden should sign an intent to allow EU to sign the criminal measures. Along the ACTA-process we have mostly seen information as leaks from negotiators. Even now after most participants have signed the treaty, some questions are hard to answer even though the treaty is public. Perhaps its because it is so generalized - something that could create a wide set of interpretations. See: EU Council file 12196/11 ACTA EU-memberstates agreement

First of all, EU has decided to add Patents to ACTA, something that the US does not want due to the implications of possibly harder injunctions and damages, as it seems.  Still, our Swedish negotiators and the EU-council seem confident that the agreement won't affect current injunctions and damages wrt patents.

Adding to the equation is the fact that the EU enforcement directive on criminal measures (IPRED-2), has come to a political halt. ACTA is used here as a shortcut, perhaps even with broader regulations, circulating the IPRED2 political process. It will probably even eradicate the need for IPRED2 - now that patents are in ACTA as an option that the EU council will most certainly adopt. Further adding to the EU equation is the setup of an new patent court for EU-wide patents. Such a court would need harmonization.

So whats the difference in interpretation between the US and EU on patents in ACTA?
Will ACTA make patent enforcement harder in EU? If so, how will it affect innovation and growth?

KEI-online on US Patent stance:

"Additionally, sources said the U.S. likely wants patents excluded from this ACTA section because it could also contradict a separate U.S. law that limits injunctions and damages in the case of an unauthorized use of a patented surgical method during a medical procedure."
EU should perhaps be more concerned here if it wants to stay in control of a very broad set of problems related to patents in different fields? Surgical Methods are not allowed to be patented but such borders have been broken before by the European Patent Office (EPO) - that accept lots of patents that are not supposed to be allowed, at the cost of real innovation and growth.

As it seems, EPO and the new "unified" European Patent Court will be outside EU influence by means of ACTA and EPO.  EPO certainly gets everything it wants.

On the meeting:  Everyone but me seemed fine with the agreement. Some from the attorneys office asked for broader tools, including domain name seizure etc. Not much room for digital rights - as in freedoms.

More from FFII on ACTA at http://acta.ffii.org/


Killing EU innovation with a unitary "more patents!" court

Erik Josefsson, ex ffii,
with a telling T-shirt, photo by
Benjamin Henrion
Patent folks repeat that unitary patents have nothing to do with software patents, but why then:
"EPLAW strongly recommends the exclusion of rules of substantive patent law from Union law". One argument is that only patent courts would be qualified to decide the limits of patents. Patent "users" and professionals seriously believe they own the golden hammer for innovation. Just don't let anything get in their way. Who would not like exclusive rights?

I also got strong reactions from patent attorneys from Stallmans piece in the Guradian. They say that software patents are already established in the EU, why does he not understand that? That debate was over ten years ago! But thats not true. Its happening right here and now while software patents are ever more questioned and tried publicly. What happened ten years ago is coming into the public light - and it shames the patent institutions. Its also a trial of legitimacy. Where monopolist proponents try to establish software patents like MS: "We live in a world where we honor, and support the honoring of, intellectual property," says Ballmer in an interview. FOSS patrons are going to have to "play by the same rules as the rest of the business," he insists. "What's fair is fair." (see Glyn Moody on techdirt). A European court that protects the "users" of the patent-system would allow MS to litigate for licenses in one strike over all of EU.

A specialized patent outside EU law or national law would make it next to impossible to cure a sick system in need of outside input. It might also spell the end of free software and cost us quite a lot more, as Bessen and Meurer's book "Patent Failure" points out.

If you are in Stockholm, dont miss Stallman on 8/11 at the Stockholm University:

And check out the petition to remove software patents at the white house.

 - jonas