The threat of the unitary patent: an open letter to the Members of the European Parliament
Paris/ Brussels, 1st February 2011. Press release.
April, End Software Patents and the Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure (FFII) sent, on 27th January 2011, a joint open letter to all Members of the European Parliament to express their concerns regarding the proposal for enhanced cooperation on the unitary patent, and asking them to postpone the vote until the European Court of Justice publishes its opinion regarding compatibility with the EU treaties.
The proposed unitary patent raises important concerns: such a system would require a central court, and the European Patent Office (EPO) receives additional power and reduced oversight in the proposal currently supported by the Commission. The excesses of the EPO have been repeatedly highlighted, particularly regarding software patents.
“The Parliament's review of the bill is being rushed without allowing for substantial debate, in spite of the fact that the Commission took 40 years to discuss this proposal! It is crucial for MEPs to get all relevant information before voting on such a text”, declared Jeanne Tadeusz, public affairs officer at April. “We are calling on MEPs to wait for the publication of the CJEU opinion to ensure an informed debate on the issue.”
Ciaran O'Riordan of End Software Patents adds: “Every patent describes an idea you can't use without authorisation. If patents are only written in English, most EU citizens will be subjected to legal restrictions in a foreign language. Big companies will hire multilingual lawyers, but for individuals and SMEs, developing products and innovating will be like walking a minefield. This proposal needs parliamentary review.”
The open letter:
Founded in 1996, April is the main French advocacy association devoted to promote and protect Free/Libre Software. With its 5476 members (5004 individuals, 472 businesses, associations and organizations), April is a pioneer of Free Software in France. Since 1996, it is a major player in the democratization and the spread of free software and open standards to the general public, professionals and institutions in the French-speaking world. It also acts as a watchdog on digital freedoms, warning the public about the dangers of private interests keeping an exclusive stranglehold on information and knowledge.
April is a registered interest representative (ID: 30399252478-91) in the EU.
About End Software Patents
Since 2008, End Software Patents (ESP) works to eliminate patents which prevent the development or distribution of software. ESP participates in government consultations and court cases, and provides information resources to enable local citizens to participate effectively in these processes. For more information on participating in the project, or to access its knowledge base, please visit its website at: http://endsoftwarepatents.org/
The FFII is a not-for-profit association registered in twenty European countries, dedicated to the development of information goods for the public benefit, based on copyright, free competition, open standards. More than 1000 members, 3,500 companies and 100,000 supporters have entrusted the FFII to act as their voice in public policy questions concerning exclusion rights in data processing.
- 1. See for instance the open letter to MEPs sent by the Staff Union of the European Patent Office on http://www.suepo.org/public/news/su10050cl.pdf
- 2. This enhanced cooperation will be implemented by a regulation on a unitary patent, which will cover all participating Member States, as opposed to the current European Patent, governed by the European Patent Office (EPO) which is actually a bunch of various designated national patents.
- 3. More information can be found on http://www.ipeg.eu/blog/wp-content/uploads/Advocates-General-Opinion-1-09.pdf.
- 4. This decision can be found on http://documents.epo.org/projects/babylon/eponet.nsf/0/DC6171F182D8B65AC125772100426656/$File/G3_08_en.pdf.