When European Pariament finally discarded the so-called “software patents directive” in summer of 2005, things seemed to have found a happy ending after all. But even by that time, people probably were sure to know that this issue would be back, sooner or later, as there both are global companies still doing their best trying to enforce so-called “intellectual property” rights all over the world, and there is an organizational unit, the European Patent Office (EPO) that, already by now, seems to be way more powerful than it actually should be – given that it just should be around to actually take care patent issues that are around instead of influencing the way how patent policy is done, in Europe. Worse, by now people are talking about the European Patent Litigation Agreement, for short ‘EPLA’, which basically allows for enforcing patents granted in the European Union all over Europe, ensuring that in example a patent can’t be revoked in one country and upheld in another one, like this is the case by now.
This is a rather troublesome situation, and it could be a “back-door” way of enforcing software and business method patents in a rather crude way: The European Patent Office by now already has been granting more than 30,000 software patents the last 30 years after the European Patent Convention came to life in 1978. The EPO is likely to continue doing so, even while at least by last years EP decision software patents aren’t allowed by European Patent law. If EPLA will become reality, all those patents, no matter whether or not they are against the law, will be enforceable all across Europe – the EPO will be likely to become an organization far more powerful than any part of the European legislative process talking about patent policy, and there hardly will be a way to interfer with what it does.
This is bad. By now, efforts are under way to still change things in a better way, but it’s again quite a bunch of work to be done…
More on that to be found at Florian Mueller’s blog.