The Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure has criticized the European Commission’s current consultation on future patent policy in Europe, saying the process has “serious flaws”.
The FFII, which successfully campaigned against the controversial CII technology patent directive last year, has sent an open letter to EC president Jose Manuel Barroso, as well as internal market and services commissioner Charlie McCreevy and commissioner for institutional relations and communication, Margot Wallstrom, detailing its complaints.
A significant number of companies have contacted me and my staff personally with questions about the difficulty of completing the questionnaire, and its inaccessibility, wrote FFII president, Pieter Hintjens.
The documentation is available in too few languages and even when available, it is largely incomprehensible to the typical businessman, he added, requesting that the EC make the consultation questionnaire available in all 20 languages of the European Union. It is currently available in English, French, German, Spanish and Dutch.
The FFII has also called on the commission to provide explanatory materials, clarify its view of problems with the patent system that the proposals are designed to fix, and make a clear statement as to whether the Community Patent or European Patent Litigation Agreement would enable software patents or not.
In January commissioner McCreevy announced the plan to seek views on how to improve the patent system in Europe and push forward the long-delayed Community Patent initiative, calling on businesses and individuals to enter into a debate on ways to improve the current patent system in Europe, and explore possible areas for harmonization across the EU.
The Community Patent project is designed to reduce the number of languages required for an application and decrease applications costs, thereby increasing the competitiveness of the European patent system against the US. The EPLA, meanwhile, would see the creation of a European Patent Court, which would have jurisdiction over the validity and infringement of European patents.
Anti-software patent campaigner, Florian Mueller, warned in January that the Community Patent could allow software patents by the back door if current European Patent Office case law is applied. Defining what is patentable would be needed to really make Europe more competitive, he said.
Both Mueller and the FFII campaigned against the CII directive on the patentability of computer-implemented interventions, which was designed to standardize technology patent laws across the European Union but divided technology vendors, business users and politicians alike, prompting a long and often bitter debate about whether it contained a loophole allowing widespread software patents.
The CII directive was eventually rejected by the European Parliament in July 2005 by 648 votes to 14 with 18 abstentions.
The consultation period on proposed changes to European patent policy will end on March 31, to be followed by a hearing, which the Commission said it intends to hold in Brussels on June 13.