The Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure (FFII) has announced a series of conferences on software patents.
The aim of the conferences will be to come up with alternatives to the patent reform agenda currently being promoted by the European Commission and the European Patent Office, to which the FFII has been a trenchant critic.
The first of the events in the European Patent Convention (Eupaco) series will take place in Munich on 25 November, with the theme "Towards a New European Patent System". FFII president Pieter Hintjens told Techworld: "We believe the EPO, backed by the global patent industry, are doing their best to get the status quo institutionalised, because it generates huge profits for people who are able to play the system. The consumer, and the ordinary business community, pay."
The EPO continues to grant a large number of software patents, but they are difficult to enforce across the EU because of differing legal regimes in member states. The FFII believes the European Patent Litigation Agreement (EPLA) currently being promoted by the Commission, as well as the patents directive thrown out by the European Parliament last year, would have the effect of legitimising the EPO's approach to software patents.
That would harm individuals and smaller businesses, even as it would allow larger businesses to use patent intimidation to control competition, the FFII believes. "Europe has managed to keep its head above water, while the US has started to sink," Hintjens said. "According to the OECD, the US fell from 1st place to 6th place in competitiveness last year, and we believe the high cost of the US patent system is partly to blame."
Hintjens said the first event will be "quite modest", but hopes its sequels in Brussels on 24 January and in May next year will attract more attention. All the events are free to attendees.
The FFII is still collecting speakers, and on Tuesday issued a call for participation from academics, legal specialists and other experts. "It will be a cross-industry debate. We have support from the pharmaceutical industry, the IT sector of course, and possibly also the healthcare sector," Hintjens said. "We want an open, lively, controversial, and productive debate."
The FFII has launched a Eupaco website and published a draft call for a "better European patent system". Proponents of the previous patent reform legislation and the EPLA say the changes are needed to make Europe's patent system more efficient, and would not promote software patents in the EU.