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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Patents shame and other techs, 2011

Today:
  1. EU court rejects cornerstone of patent plan
  2. 25 countries give green light to European patent
  3. EU patent office, Google seal pact on translation
  4. Italy, Spain take patent fight to court
and also
  1. Hylas-1 ready for service
  2. EU novel food regulation review at risk
  3. Electric car makers fight over plug standard
The European patents system is the textbook example how good intentions may lead to bad results. So the story so far - all the EU countries except Spain and Italy decided to go ahead with the EU patent system. However, they didn't think about something - law. And probably reason.
The following articles trace the joke in which the EC put itself recently. So, the creation of the EU patent tribunal was pronounced illegal. How one tribunal could be outside of the reach of all the other European institutions is mystics to me. Anyway, one would think that this would make people question their actions and find a better way. Not at all, everything continues as planned.
I'm a big defender of the common EU patent, my problem is the 3-lingual system. Because it's obviously wrong. And very obviously, it will put all the companies besides the French, German and English ones into very unfair disadvantage. Why? What's wrong with one language system? French may not like English, but English people surely also don't like French. If you want to make it fair, oblige all the companies to translate their material to English and one other EU language. Everyone will translate their work on only one additional language and there will be at least one common language for everyone. Perfectly fair and simple. But no, mister, let's make it the hard way. Let's make all the other 25 nations feel second-hand, while the French and German industries will feel happy and calm. Sorry, but I cannot support this. It's simply not fair. And it won't become any fairer if they include Italian or Spanish. It's simply not fair and I'm ashamed that 23 countries bowed down to France and Germany. This is not the idea of the EU! And it will affect the union. And that' so sad.
So I hope Italy and Spain succeed in European court. True, that will devastate the future of EU patents, but it will restore the dignity of the EU. So, good luck to them!

EU court rejects cornerstone of patent plan 

11 March 2011
The European Court of Justice has decided that the proposed establishment of an EU patent tribunal is incompatible with EU rules, meaning that this cornerstone of long-standing plans to create a unified European patent will have to be reviewed. 
In a binding decision the top EU judges deemed the creation of a Community Patent Court as "not compatible with the provisions of European Union law". Given the way it has been conceived, the tribunal would indeed have to go beyond EU law and its decisions would not be able to be legally challenged by the EU institutions.
This "would alter the essential character of the powers conferred on the institutions of the European Union and on the member states which are indispensable to the preservation of the very nature of European Union law," reads a press release outlining the opinion of the European Court of Justice (ECJ).
The tribunal was designed to resolve EU patent-related disputes and was a crucial element of plans to create a unified European patent. Controversies regarding the ownership of a patent are currently resolved at national level. This increases costs and affects legal certainty across the EU.
The single tribunal was designed to address these shortcomings but now that the ECJ has issued its binding opinion, it will need to be reviewed.
"The creation of unitary patent protection is legally distinct from the creation of the European Patent Court," reads a press release issued by Commissioner Barnier after the Court of Justice had delivered its opinion."The opinion of the [ECJ] enables us to resume work related to the creation of a unified patent litigation system, which is one of the main pillars of European patent reform. The enhanced cooperation to be launched at Thursday's Competitiveness Council remains unaffected," said Hungarian Minister Zoltán Cséfalvay, chair of the Competitiveness Council.
However, a Hungarian diplomat acknowledged that "blocking the jurisdictional regime will not legally block moves on the other tracks, but the usefulness of the new system will be seriously affected".
Italy, a long-standing opponent of the proposed patent regime, which it says discriminates against Italian firms, rejoiced after hearing the ECJ's decision. source

25 countries give green light to European patent

15 March 2011
Ministers from 25 member states have decided to go ahead with plans to introduce a common system for registering patents that would save European businesses millions of euros each year. Meanwhile, Italy and Spain are still refusing to join in, and difficult legal issues remain unresolved.
The decision to proceed with a Europe-wide patent system was taken by EU ministers in Brussels yesterday (10 March), with the agreement of all the countries except Italy and Spain.
These two countries have chosen to exclude themselves from the process, because they refuse to accept the proposed rules regarding the choice of official languages.
Most of the ministers were able to accept the principle that all patent applications should be submitted using one of the three working languages of the European Patent Office (EPO), which since 1977 have been English, French and German.
However, the Italians and Spanish are afraid that such an approach would give an unfair advantage to companies based in France, Germany and the United Kingdom, which would all be able to make Europe-wide patent applications in their native languages.
The two Southern European countries had argued that their languages should be included as well, otherwise there should be just one reference language. But the French government was not willing to accept the idea that all patent applications should be submitted in English.
Enhanced cooperation allows a group of countries to adopt new common rules among themselves, in areas where an EU-wide agreement cannot be reached.
The procedure was first put into practice last summer (July 2010), when 14 countries launched an agreement on how to manage divorces involving couples with connections (of nationality and/or residence) to more than one member state.
Last month (on 15 February), the European Parliament gave its approval for member states to make use of the enhanced cooperation procedure for setting up a common patent system.
The agreement among 25 member states concerns the creation of the European patent – which in legal jargon is known as a "unitary patent title" – as well as the use of English, French and German as the three main working languages.
However, another potentially more difficult issue is not covered by the ministers' agreement. This concerns the idea of setting up a common jurisdiction system including a tribunal to resolve legal disputes, for example concerning the scope of individual patents.
On Tuesday (8 March), the European Court of Justice ruled that the creation of a Community Patent Court would not be compatible with the provisions of EU law, thereby casting a shadow of doubt over plans to establish a Europe-wide patent system.
The commissioner envisages that all of the patents processed by the new system would be translated into English if necessary, and also into the applicant's own language. The cost of these translations would be included in the basic price of registering a patent.Barnier promised that "as of 30 March" the Commission would present draft regulations on the creation of the patent and the language regime.
Regarding the more delicate question of whether and how to develop a common patent jurisdiction system, he said that the Commission would continue working on this issue, while paying close attention to the recent ruling made by the European Court of Justice (ECJ). source

EU patent office, Google seal pact on translation 

25 March 2011
The European Patent Office (EPO) and American Internet giant Google signed yesterday (24 March) an agreement to collaborate on machine translation of patents into 32 European, Slavic and Asian languages.

Under the partnership, already announced in November 2010, the EPO will use Google Translate technology to offer translation of patents on its website into 28 European languages, as well as into Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Russian.
However, while the automatic computer-generated translation system will give real-time access to existing patent information free-of-charge, these translations will have no legal value and should be used for information and research purposes only.Under the EPO-Google agreement, the patent office will offer Google access to its entire corpus of translated patents to enable the Internet giant to optimise its computer-generated translation technology for the specific language used in patent registrations.
According to the EPO, "the agreement is non-exclusive, and there is no financial component involved". Antoine Aubert, head of public policy at Google's Brussels office, said the project would be of huge benefit to inventors, scientists and innovators as it enables them to speed up R&D efforts by conducting searches in their own language, across the entire spectrum of EPO patents.
From 2011 onwards, companies, inventors and scientists will be able to search for patents on the EPO website in English, French and German, and translate between them on the fly.
The other European languages, as well as Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Russian, will be made available in phases, and the project is expected to be completed by the end of 2014. source
My comment: The funniest thing here is that the translations (of course) won't have any legal value. They will benefit researchers??? No, they will benefit mostly Google. The researchers will benefit only from the common database, the translation is just secondary.

Italy, Spain take patent fight to court

01 June 2011
Italy and Spain yesterday (30 May) lodged a complaint with the European Court of Justice against attempts by other member states to introduce an EU patent without them.
The EU patent scheme (see 'Background') is backed by 25 members but viewed as discriminatory by Rome and Madrid.
In a statement, the Italian Foreign Ministry said it had lodged the complaint with the court to defend the values of the union against abuse.
The statement said the use of enhanced co-operation procedure was "never intended to be stretched to nullify the original aims of the European treaties".
It added: "The use of enhanced co-operation within the patent sector is contrary to the spirit of the single market, because it tends to create division and distortion within the market, and will thus prejudice Italian businesses."
Supporters of a single EU patent say it is time for the Union to replace the current system, which forces firms to patent their designs in every one of the bloc's 27 member states and in 23 official languages, at huge expense.
Hungarian Deputy Economy Minister Zoltán Cséfalvay said competitiveness ministers would discuss the issue at a special meeting on 27 June in Luxembourg. In respone, Internal Market Commissioner Michel Barnier said: "I am confident that the enhanced co-operation procedure presented by the Commission is not discriminatory. We are assured that Italian and Spanish business will suffer no discrimination."

The Hungarian Presidency estimates that the direct consequence of a fragmented patent system add up to around €750 million of extra costs on European businesses every year. source
My comment: "
"Italy has today filed an appeal with the Court of Justice in Luxembourg against the decision of the Council of 10 March 2011 which authorised the introduction of European patent by enhanced co-operation of the 25 member states," said a statement from the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
"By this means, Italy intends to defend the values and objectives of the European Union against attempts to create a clique of power and values in contravention of the principle of the equal right to dignity and the respect for the languages and culture of each member states."
"Italy also contests the creation of a negative precedent within the process of European integration: enhanced cooperation was never intended to be used as a divisive instrument, effectively stretched in order to nullify the norms of the European Treaties which call for humanity, but as methods for groups of states to develop means of integration in which other states are not interested," it added.
The statement concluded: "The use of enhanced co-operation within the patent sector is contrary to the spirit of the single market, because it tends to create division and distortion within the market, nd will thus prejudice Italian businesses."
"We cannot understand why Spanish and other languages cannot have the same status of French, English and German," Spain's EU affairs minister Diego Lopez Garrido said."

Other:

Hylas-1 ready for service

March 25, 2011
It’s all systems go for Hylas-1, the first satellite created specifically to deliver broadband access to European consumers. Since its launch in November, Hylas has performed well throughout its testing in orbit and is now ready for commercial service. 
An extensive series of tests has checked the performance of its communications payloads. Conducted from ESA’s new testing facilities in Redu, Belgium, the tests have confirmed that the , including the antennas, is in good health, operating correctly and shows no ill effects from space.
The innovative ‘highly adaptable’ payload was developed by Astrium (UK), with the assistance of ESA’s Advanced Research in Telecommunication Systems (ARTES) program. ESA has devoted years to developing satellite broadband technologies through ARTES, and now several of these innovations are being put to work on Hylas-1.
Providing European broadband coverage as well as TV distribution and other services, Hylas-1 is the first European satellite specifically designed to provide interactive broadband services, as ESA’s first public–private partnership in a full satellite system.
The bulk of the mission is financed by commercial operator Avanti Communications.
 source

EU novel food regulation review at risk

22 March 2011
As talks between the European Parliament and the European Commission to update an EU regulation on novel foods stumble on cloning, the institutions have now two more weeks to find a compromise agreement before the whole review fails on 30 March.
Discussions on amending the bloc’s novel foods regulation failed at four o'clock on Thursday morning (17 March), after nine hour marathon talks, amid disagreement over whether or not to ban food from clones and their offspring.
The Parliament is calling for the explicit ban of meat produced from cloned animals and their descendants, whereas EU ministers and the Commission back ban on cloning for food production, but reject ban on food from offspring.
According to EU conciliation rules, if the two institutions fail to reach an agreement by a 30 March deadline, the whole proposal - on which work began in 2008 - will have to be scrapped.
So far, only one conciliation process has failed: on the Working Time Directive.

The failure of the novel foods review would leave the use and development of new foods, not to mention the cloning and application of new technologies such as nanotechnology, in legal limbo for years to come.
The European Environmental Bureau voiced concern in particular over nanofoods, which would escape political attention if conciliation fails.
The Parliament is seeking a moratorium on foods containing nanomaterials until specific risk assessments have proven that they are safe.
They also want food containing nano-ingredients to be labelled. The Council supports a more lenient approach, backing a case-by-case authorisation process after the safety of foods containing or consisting of manufactured nanomaterials has been evaluated.
The latest survey shows that only 15% of EU citizens support animal cloning for food, whereas 70% think the practice should not be encouraged in food production.
But the Council said in a statement that together with the Commission they had reasons to reject a ban on food obtained from the naturally conceived offspring of clones.It stressed that neither the EU, nor third countries have a system for tracing the natural offspring of clones in the food chain.
Therefore, if restrictions on cloned cattle were introduced, Europe would have to reject imports of beef and dairy products from countries such as the United States, as producers could not fully trace the ancestors of their products.
According to the Council, the ban cannot be justified from an animal welfare perspective either, as the offspring of cloned animals are bred using traditional methods.Finally, it underlined that "such a ban would mislead consumers as there are already non-traceable offspring in the EU and foodstuff derived from them has already entered the food market".
These animals mainly end up into the EU food supply chain via imports of breeding material from the US.
 sourceMy comment: What the article fails to inform about, however, is that nobody wants to sell you meat from cloned animals, everyone wants to sell the meat from the offspring of the cloned animals! Thus, the whole thing about non-traceability of the cloned meat is nonsense! If the EU decides so, a mechanism will be created. It's as simple as that. 
And if no one sells meat from directly cloned animals, then it makes absolutely no sense to ban it. While the offspring are something completely separate. 
And of course, the Commission is once again defending the industry and not EU citizens. Isn't it kind of disturbing???

Electric car makers fight over plug standard

11 April 2011
A tussle between different designs of plugs used in prototype electric cars has derailed an attempt to create a common European standard, highlighting industrial jealousy as the sector attempts to go mainstream.
The EU's "focus group on electro-mobility" was set to adopt a standard type of plug for recharging European manufactured electric cars by 31 March, but an argument between rival designs scuppered agreement.
Sources close to the group told EurActiv that the French and Italians had expressed misgivings over the German design of plug.
The German plug was expected to be adopted as standard, but the French and Italians blocked it because it lacked safety "shutters", used in some countries to protect children from accidental shocks from domestic plugs.
At stake for the winning design is not simply the manufacture of the plug itself, but also a perception that the winning jurisdiction will have home advantage with regard to standards for electric cars.
Although the German plug lacks shutters, it does have safety features controlled by the electronic systems in the car and the charging post, which are designed to make the plug inactive unless it is in use with an electric vehicle properly connected.

A commentator close to the French side of the argument said on condition of anonymity: "This is not about the technology. It is just that there are rules to be obeyed. Shouldn't companies usually abide by the rules? Is that not what usually happens in Germany?" source

My comment: So bye bye electric cars for now. Oh well, this was to be expected - after all, all the car producers have interest to slow down maximally the decision. Because this way, they can sell the old models for longer. As simple as this.

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