Thursday, November 23, 2006

Judges vs. Politicians

In IAM magazine, which has the slogan, "Maximising IP value for business", Joff Wild notes that the "FFII is shaping the debate again" with the launch of the European Patent Conference. He concludes with this question:

"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?"
Under the draft EPLA proposal, the same officials who run the European Patent Office would be responsible for appointing the judges of the new European Patent Judiciary courts.

It seems to me - and this is something I'll repeat over and over - that the EPO has become the headquarters and cheerleader for the global patent industry in Europe. The EPO acts very much in its own interests. Soft patents - software and business process patents - are a lucrative new business for the patent industry, and the EPO has been determined to get these passed into law, one way or another.

Does Parliament have any say over innovation policy? Or should this be decided by judges who are appointed (for fixed terms) by the very people who profit from a huge inflation in patents, driven by systematic lowering of standards across the board?

The EPO has not demonstrated great skill in granting good patents. This is not unique - the USPTO is similarly incompetent at separating the pearls from the swill. What the EPO is remarkably good at is bolstering, promoting, and expanding its own powers.

EPLA is not at all about improving the patent system. It is about side-stepping last year's hallmark decision by the European Parliament, and concretising the EPO's soft patent practice by a back door.

I'm especially concerned when I see laws being made by diplomatic treaty, instead of via the proper legislative process. Democracy is not a pallative for the middle classes, an exercise to amuse the crowds while the real deals are done in smoky back rooms. Democracy is a key part of a healthy, balanced, sane legislative process.

EPLA is not just undemocratic, it is solidly anti-democratic.

Who do I trust more with my innovation-based business? Democratically-elected politicians who I can call, speak to, and educate, or EPO-appointed judges who's very career and status depends on following the party line?

I think the answer is clear.


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