USPTO ‘chime in’ with tips for EU’s patent laws

Patents: While I was reading LWN’s excellent writeup on the results of the EuroParl patent vote, I came across this very worrying snippet:

Readers in the United States may be interested to know that the U.S. government has chimed in with opposition to article 6a, which states that patents can not be used to block interoperability.

Sure enough, it links to an FFII page noting

‘the US’ believes that conversion between patented file formats should generally not be allowed without a license, and therefore demands deletion of Art 6a.’

‘the US’ is in quotes because FFII reckon that evidence suggests that this is the US Mission’s IPR representatives forwarding the text direct from the US Patent Office, since the USPTO is an agency of the Dept of Commerce.

…. ‘It is part of a US Government ‘Action Plan’ to ‘promote international harmonisation of substantive patent law’ in order to ‘strengthen the rights of American intellectual property holders by making it easier to obtain international protection for their inventions’. This plan has been promoted aggressively by top officials of the US Patent Office in international fora such as WIPO, WSIS and OECD as well as through bilateral negotiations.’

BTW, that is exactly the wording used in the USPTO’s 21st Century Strategic Plan paper. FFII go on to comment on their letter, including this note:

‘The US’ is propagating conventional wisdom such as ‘the more patents the more property, the more property the more innovation’, which is in sharp contrast to consensus of all serious scholars of software economics, as expressed in numerous studies conducted in the USA and in reports by the US Academy of Sciences.

Moreover, ‘the US’ has been ignoring the voice of its own software industry, which is, as shown by last year’s FTC hearings, characterised by ‘continued animosity against software patents’ and whose major players, including such companies as Adobe, Oracle and Autodesk, all opposed software patentability at the USPTO hearing of 1994. The same USPTO which is ghostwriting this paper in the name of ‘the US’ today proceded to legalise program claims shortly after the 1994 hearing, thereby completely ignoring the voice of the US software industry.

One comment on the LWN story notes: ‘as the United States is seeking to rewrite European law to their
agenda, what steps can European Citizens take to help turn the USPTO agenda around into something approaching the spirit of the US Constitution and those who wrote it?’

A good question.

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