Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Patents - Merit or Menace for the Knowledge Economy?

The October issue of Chemistry World has a "Head to Head" on patents and innovation, building on the current debates over patents and incentives. Many thanks to Jim Roche, Lecturer in the School of Science, Athlone Institute of Technology (AIT), Ireland, for pointing it out.

Barry Treves (pictured at left), President of the Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys UK (CIPA), takes on the "for," while Terence Kealey (pictured at right), Vice-chancellor of the University of Buckingham UK, and clinical biochemist, handles the "against."

Mr Treves highlights the social benefit of obligations to disclose the full details of the patent, arguing that this characteristic of the patent framework "adds enormously to the wealth of scientific and technical knowledge available." He also argues that without the confidence created by the greater "certainty" in the market conferred by the patent monopoly, the entrepreneurial activity in research and development would be compromised. Although Dr Kealey proclaims "Patents are a Menace," he surprisingly seems to agree on one point with his opponent, conceding "Only in the pharmaceutical industry are patents justifiable." Head to head or tete a tete?

The article also comes at a very busy time for the European Patent Office (EPO). At the beginning of this month, Alain Pompidou, President of the EPO, said to the EPO's Online Services Conference in Lisbon, "If Europe really wants to become the world's leading knowledge economy by 2010, the patent network urgently needs to be developed." He supported ratification of the London Protocol and the opportunity to reduce costs of patenting, and advocated the European Patent Litigation Agreement (EPLA) as an important step towards harmonising patent law in the EU, with patents as a kind of "protection" for a competitive research market. But as discussed here earlier this month, the European Parliament voted to postpone membership of EPLA, with many expressing concerns for ongoing democratic control over patents.

Next week, 6-8 November, the EPO will be conducting the Patent Information Conference in Cyprus. A status report on the action list, from the 2005 conference in Budapest, has now been prepared and made available. 6-10 November, EPO Munich will be conducting a public seminar on IP for government officials and information administrators.

13-17 November, the EPO is staging IP Enforcement Week at the EPO Munich.

21 November, there will be a conference in London, Putting the right value on your patents, co-organised by the EPO, the UK Patent Office, and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Taking place at the British Library Conference Centre, the meeting will concentrate on the commercialisation of patents, the management of portfolios, and other concerns of the market, business, and industry.

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