Unitary patent threatens innovation in Europe
Will lawsuits like Apple vs Samsung soon take place in Europe? The European Parliament is about to set the future course for Europe's patent system. On September 17th and 18th, the European Parliament's Legal Affairs committee will discuss a proposal for a EU-wide patent. From now until September 18th, FSFE will continuously provide updates and analysis on the unitary patent on our website.
This proposal has faced massive criticism from different sides. In its current form, it will mean:
- giving up political control over Europe's innovation policy
- endangering due process for those involved in patent litigation
- cementing the EPO's dangerous practice of awarding patents on software
The European Court of Justice warned in March 2011 that the previous patent proposal was incompatible with EU laws (pdf).
In December 2011, the European Council agreed to change the proposal. It was a change for the worse: By removing three key articles, the Council greatly reduced the role of the European Court of Justice in the future unitary patent system. The rapporteur for the Parliament's Legal Affairs committee, Bernhard Rapkay, warned that this sudden modification was likely to breach EU law. [Paragraph updated to reflect comments made by rapporteur of Legal Affairs Committee.]
In order to preserve and enhance Europe's capacity for innovation, FSFE demands that:
- Political control over the patent system: Europe's patent system must be placed under the Parliament's supervision. The patent system is an important tool of innovation policy. The European Parliament must not delegate its responsibilities to an organisation that is entirely outside the EU's control.
- Due process: The patent system has to guarantee due process for all, with proper checks and balances. Rather than being left at the mercy of an unsupervised special patent court, those involved in patent litigation must have recourse to national courts and ultimately to the European Court of Justice.
- No patents on software: Parliament needs to effectively ensure that computer programs are excluded from patentability. MEPs must make it clear that a computer program cannot be patented just because it runs on generic data processing hardware.
Update: The Legal Affairs committee decided to postpone the discussion on the unitary patent proposal. It will most likely take place later in the fall of 2012. FSFE will continue to provide updates and analysis as further information becomes available.