December 23, 2004

Learning from EICTA

EICTA has issued a critical statement ("extreme disappointment") on the latest decision of the Council not to decide anything now here.

There are several interesting points one can learn from in this statement.

For one, the last paragraph of the short statement said that

"Instead of becoming the world's most competitive knowledge-based economy by 2010, we run the risk of being caught up in a negative spiral where other regions can take advantage of European investment in innovation, while European companies in their home markets are weakened by imitation."

"Weakened by imitation". So in the view of the EICTA, the patent law we have now in Europe does not exclude said imitation, but the Directive the EICTA wants would do so.

That in turn contradicts the usual party line offered by the Commission in the misleading reasons to their proposal that this Directive is not about changing current law. I have debunked this party line here, but I am happy to find an unlikely ally in this EICTA statement that clearly indicates that the other side wants change, not harmonisation.

As I said at the time:

"If nothing will be made patentable which is not already patentable, then your proposal is doing exactly nothing at all and should be dumped because it adds to the confusion, rather than reducing it."

And as I might add now in response to the "extreme disappointment" of EICTA: If nothing is supposed to change, why is there any reason to rush keeping things exactly as they are right now?

The other interesting question is why the EICTA tries to sell out the European industry it is supposed to represent. It is not "European companies" who "are weakened by imitation". Everybody knows that the bulk of the software patents issued illegally by the EPO are _not_ owned by European but by American and Japanese companies. These would receive large sums in royalty payments from the European industry if these patents became actually enforcable.

As I said before:

"In practice, most of the illegally granted European software patents are owned by American companies. The practical effect of McCarthy's proposal will be a large net flow of license payments from the European to the American software industry.

I fail to see how that will contribute to the competitiveness of the European industry."

I don't know why EICTA wants to damage the competitiveness of the Europan industry. Maybe the reason is that EICTA is representing well-known "European" companies like Microsoft, IBM and Sony.

While assuring a large new flow of royalty payments from European to American and Japanese software companies doesn't make much sense if you are really fighting for the European industry's interests, that looks somewhat different if you are taking money from Microsoft and IBM.

The EICTA needs to kick out companies not based in Europe immediately if it wants any credibility for its claim to speak for the "European" industry.

Update: The same lessons can be learned from "Intellect", which is a package that has "trade association for the UK hi-tech industry" on the label and Microsoft and IBM as members.

They are also strongly supporting my assertion that the Directive is about radically changing European patent law. And just like EICTA they are "dismayed".

Director general John Higgins remarks that without the Directive "the UK's individual inventors, SMEs and large multinationals, will be unable to protect their inventions".

Maybe someone should ask him why "large multinationals" like IBM and Microsoft are allowed to influence the voice of the "UK hi-tech industry". And when did Microsoft become an "UK" multinational? Somehow I missed their move to London.

Sounds like a built-in conflict of interest to me.

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at December 23, 2004 10:30 PM | TrackBack