European Patent Forum 2007

EPO presents self-critical “scenarios”, Merkel preaches the patent faith

Merkel and Verheugen were among the speakers of this high level conference of the European Patent establishment, hosted by the EPO. It began with an unusally innovative and openminded show of future scenarios. Patent orthodoxy came back to the stage with the top politicians.

1 Program

1.1 Day 1: Summary

Time Speaker Comments
10:00 Tim Sebastian excellent moderator, known from the BBC’s “hardtalk” program
10:05 Alain Pompidou EPO president introduces program, praises keynote speaker Angela Merkel and her “promising initiatives”
Benoît Battistelli reports about discussions in the EPO’s Administrative Council about the “scenarios for the future”, i.e. conclusions drawn from the outcome of a major research project which has recently been published. Says that the Adm Council unanimously approved a general set of orientations for a future, which needs a European centralised high quality patent office
Beate Merk Bavarian Minister of Justice: proud to have EPO in Bavaria, says Germany is “most patently innovative” (patentinnovativste) economy of Europe and Bavaria of Germany, ideas are raw materials of the knowledge economy, need to be assigned ownership by an efficient high quality system. EPLA is the practical step forward to more efficiency, Community patent and Community Patent Court won’t work.
10:25 Presentation ‘4 Scenarios for the Future’ A remarkable audio-visual performance with motion pictures, rap and opera singing, dance and a lot of spoken dialog, worked out at the order of the EPO, spells out a future in which the patent system is under increased pressure to adapt to diversified needs and, within 20 years, loses all political support and collapses.
11:30 Panel ‘The Outlook for 2025’ 5 panelists, among them some 1-2 strong critics of the patent system, discuss the ‘4 scenarios for the future’
15:30 Angela Merkel personal speech outlining a set of policies for innovation and growth in Germany and Europe, in favor of software patents and EPLA, earns enthusiastic applause from the audience, see separate paragraph below.
16:00 Pompidou Thanks Angie. See you tonight at Inventor of the Year ceremony.

1.2 ‘4 Scenarios for the Future’ presentation

A remarkable audio-visual performance with motion pictures, rap and opera singing, dance and a lot of spoken dialog, worked out by Martin Wagner, Thomas Gemeinweiser, Tom Fritz at the order of the EPO. Spells out a grim view of global competition in the next 20 years. Newly developped countries, especially China, use patents strategically to gain dominance, de-industrialisation of EU+US accelerates, EU+US gradually loses interest in supporting the patent system, the patent system’s 1-size-fits-all approach to emerging fields provokes ever-growing criticism, questions like “where are the limits of patentability and who sets them?” gain importance, slogans like “no power to the trolls” become louder, in the coming years the sense that “IP blocks the Internet” increases, in 2018-2025 “soft IP system” and “sectoral IP systems” supplant the patent system. The world becomes more unstable (“dynamic”), balance can only be constantly sought but never found, “resilience and adaptability” are the primordial values, with which the “inflexible patent institutions” fail to cope.

1.3 Merkel Speech (Notes)

Merkel talked about her own policies and the importance of the patent institutions as underpinnings for these policies.

The audience, consisting mostly of EPO people governmental patent activists from all over Europe, applauded enthusiastically and, in private discussions after the speech, congratulated itself for having this chancelor as its spearhead.

1.3.1 Importance of (Software) Patents

  • Just as patents were key elements of success in the industrial age, they are also key building blocks of the knowledge economy, in a Europe which is poor in material resources and has to rely on ownership of ideas.
  • The adaption of patents to the knowledge economy is a ‘huge challenge’ as the ‘software problem’ (Softwareproblematik) shows, but we also have considerable problems if we can’t protect our intellectual property.
    • At least Merkel said ‘software’, not ‘CII’.

1.3.2 On Innovation Policy in DE and EU

  • Initiatives to reduce corporate taxes and regulatory burdens on SMEs,
  • EU Council decision to reduce red tape by 25% in the EU within a few years,
  • German ‘hightech strategy’ to help achieve the Lisbon Agenda target of spending 3% of GDP of each country on R&D
  • initiatives to help overcome inability to bring ideas to market (famous example Konrad Zuse cited)
  • 25% subsidy (Forschungsprämie) for universitarian research that is carried out at the order of SMEs
  • a “Council for Innovation and Growth” under personal presidency of Merkel
    • This Council has mainly been developping new template contracts for cooperation between researchers and investors, where patents are recognised as immaterial assets
    • Such assets need to be based on “high quality” patents which the EPO must please generate. Which is why the EPO is of crucial importance
  • 7th European Research Framework with 54 bn eur,
  • new EU Research Council modelled after german DFG
    • oriented for the 1st time toward excellence only, without consideration for regional distribution
    • aiming to make Europe attractive for high quality researchers from in and outside
    • Patents are important for this attractivity
  • The G8 Summit in Heiligendamm will produce a patent cooperation charta (declaration) which will contribute to the entrenchment of patents in research work and thereby help create bright prospects for research in Europe
  • Disparity of patent systems between US and EU are a non-tarifary trade barrier, to be reduced by efforts of Transatlantic Partnership initiative
    • Meeting of TP on 2007-04-30 will also produce a framework paper.
  • European Institute for Technology (EIT) will promote universitarian corporate technology transfer.

1.3.3 On EPLA, London Agreement and EU Patent System Building

  • The Commission’s consultation showed that there is overwhelming support by most of the 2500 respondents for a further unification of the European patent system, especially for a Community patent and a unified supreme European court.
  • The new EU patent system must be “uniform, legally secure and affordable”.
    • Linguistic Diversity is dear but in this case must be sacrificed.
    • London Agreement must be ratified and implemented ASAP.
    • I am pushing strongly for London Agreement and not willing to accept compromises on this.
    • “We now know the needs of the internationally active companies, and therefore we must act to satisfy them” (sic!)
  • Also, we need a supreme European patent court, as provided by the EPLA draft.
    • The EPLA provides a directly usable blueprint.
    • If one day the Community Patent succedes, the EPLA system can be adapted easily.
    • If there is a will then there is a way.
    • We will take a very critical look at any proposals that would dilute the EPLA and make it unworkable.
    • The Commission in it’s recent communication has correctly reported the outcome of its consultation, but the conclusions drawn there from don’t really make us happy.

1.3.4 Closing Remarks

  • Promotion of innovation and patent protection are a central challenge.
  • We have to rely on the secret of success in European matters, which is the spirit of community.
  • As Claude Monnet said, “nothing is possible without people, nothing is sustainable without institutions”.
  • The work of you EPO examiners is of great importance for our policies, we rely on you.
  • Thanks to Pompidou who made great contributions to the maintenance of the EPO’s high standards of patent quality.
  • Best wishes to Brimelow who, as I noticed just by our first exchange of words a few minutes ago, is a very competent successor.
  • Our motto: continent of ideas.

2 Resources

2.1 web pages

2.2 printed materials mentioned or distributed at the meeting

  • Scenarios for the Future: grand report about the current state of the patent system and predictions for the next 20 years, based on interviews with 100s of players
  • SME case studies: examples of SMEs that greatly benefitted from patents, worked out as glossy brochures, one for each such SME
  • Computer-Implemented Inventions” brochure and other material at an exhibition in the lobby
  • EPO: Scenarios
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