|Football, soccer ball,|
pigs bladder...its all Greek
to the AmeriKat
"This evening, whilst elsewhere others were preparing to resolve their differences using a pig's bladder, in London the UCL Institute of Brand and Innovation Law was hosting the CIPA 2012 Intellectual Property Debate, chaired by the Rt Hon Professor Sir Robin Jacob, with the motion that'This house believes that political pressure and a few loud business voices are making the IP systems in Europe less and less relevant to the needs of small enterprises.'
The motion was proposed by Michael Wilcox, an inventor of a digital colour printing technology. He made national headlines in March when he burnt one of his patents in protest outside the Houses of Parliament, claiming that it had become worthless because it was too expensive to enforce. Wilcox passionately explained that in his view the UK had become the free research laboratory of the world. His view was that whilst SMEs provided 95% of the patents in the UK, the enforcement regime is biased in favour of big business -- the litigator with the deepest pocket wins. He compared the patent system unfavourably with copyright saying that copyright protection, unlike patent protection, is free and automatic, and there is the stronger disincentive in that it can be a crime to infringe. ["Ahh..", says the AmeriKat, "but patent infringement can be a crime and indeed is any many European countries like Austria, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany... just not the UK."]
Vicki Salmon of CIPA seconded the motion by highlighting the potential damage to SMEs of the current proposals for the Unitary Patent. Although obtaining a patent across a number of member states might be cheaper using a Unitary Patent, many SMEs are not interested in such wide geographical protection, and if SMEs cannot enforce their patents, they are worthless. The Patents County Court works for SMEs; the Unified Court will not. She urged policiticans not to make the Unitary Patent irrelevant to SMEs.
Sean Dennehey, Deputy Chief Executive and Patents Directorat IPO, spoke amusingly against the motion. Dennehey stated that political decisions are the product of democracy, and that the alternative is having decisions taken by unelected officials ["Like judges?", says Merpel]. He quoted figures suggesting that large businesses of more than 250 employees fund 96% of R&D in the UK while emphasising that maintaining the balance between big business and SMEs is important. ["How can you even go about trying to strike a balance with something that, on economics - and our IP system in the UK is an economic IP system - is weighted so heavily in favor of big business?", asks the AmeriKat]
James Nurton of Managing Intellectual Property seconded the oppostion. He explained that the IP system has become more accessible in Europe over recent years, with the single market allowing SMEs to obtain protection much more easily and cheaply than in the past.
The debate was opened up to the floor and this provoked some lively contributions. There was talk of the value of no-win, no-fee agreements, and the fact that in the US it is permissible for patent agents to take a stake in companies for whom they are acting. The value of being able to apply a court decision obtained in one state in the US to the whole country was emphasised, as were the number of cases brought in the US by SMEs against big business. ["No mention of the costs of US patent litigation then?" asks Merpel] Criticisms were also made of the short termism of the UK legislative cycle, particularly with reference to copyright and registered designs legislation
Following a summing up by the protagonists, and in spite of a mischievous threat from Sean Dennehey that if the motion was carried, lawyers would be abolished and technical Judges appointed, the motion was carried by a reasonable majority. ["A lesson for Dennehey, and us all, not to tease those whose vote you rely upon", suggests the AmeriKat]. Whether politicians will take notice of the messages summarised by tonight's event and the position of inventors like Mr. Wilcox and SMEs, is unclear. ["What is clear", says the AmeriKat, "is that in the current financial climate, SMEs need their message and their needs to hit home with politicians, and not at a superficial level, before its too late."]"
|The European IP system: |