17 January 2006

Community Patents: Maybe the Last Chance to get it Through

In a press release issued yesterday, the European Commission announced a public consultation on patent policy in Europe, more specifically on "how to create an EU-wide system of protection can best take account of stakeholders' needs". This consultation covers not just the Community patent but other ways in which the patent system could be improved in Europe. It will also cover steps that can be taken in the short term to protect the rights of inventors, investors in their technology, bankers, lenders and other short term funders, other players in the market and, most important of all, the general public.

A consultation questionnaire can be downloaded from the Commission website. It is very straightforward and not a particularly long document. It has to be returned to the Commission not later than 31 March 2006.

We really do need to do something about patent reform in the continent as a whole. Otherwise it won't be just call centres that end up in India or jeans and consumer electricals manufacturing in China but just about everything except perhaps personal services like car washing or serving chips. There is no reason why patent libraries, financial services or, indeed, patent agents, intellectual property solicitors or even intellectual property law teaching can't be supplied offshore. Globalization is everybody's problem and opportunity which means that we all have to do something about protecting our investments in branding, design, technology and the arts.

I have been rabbiting on for years about the cost of IP enforcement and patent protection in Europe and in particular in the UK. The last time I broached the subject here was just before Christmas in "Why the Country that pioneered the Industrial Revolution is falling behind everyone" which highlighted the EPO Study on the Cost of Patenting and the IPAC report on Enforcement of Patent Rights.

This consultation needs the widest possible publicity and I shall be bringing it to the attention of the North-East branch of the LES in Leeds tonight when we hear Patrick Cantrill's talk on the technology transfer block exemption, at Leeds Inventors Club tomorrow when we have the brains trust, at Bmedi@ on Wednesday and in the Huddersfield, Manchester, Sheffield and Liverpool clubs as and when we set them up.

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