European Parliament Agrees To Patent Reform Plan With Amendments 13/10/2006 by Tove Iren S. Gerhardsen for Intellectual Property Watch Leave a Comment Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)By Tove Iren S. Gerhardsen The European Parliament yesterday agreed by a large majority to the European Commission’s plan of going forward with talks on patent reform in Europe, but with a number of amendments to the current plan aimed at ensuring “democratic control” of the process, according to the Parliament. The vote concerned whether the European Community should “accede to” the European Patent Litigation Agreement (EPLA), which would mean the setting up of a European patent court. Work is in progress on the EPLA, but members of the Parliament said “significant improvements” are needed for the text to be accepted, a Parliament press release said. “Members of Parliament asked for significant revision of the provisions of the agreement with regard to democratic control, judicial independence and litigation costs,” the release said. With 494 votes in favour and 109 against (and 18 abstentions), according to the release, the Parliament accepted a resolution put forward by the three international-level parties that had reached a compromise on the future patent policy debate in Europe. They are: The Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) and European Democrats (EPP-ED), the Party of European Socialists (PES) and the Alliance for Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) (IPW, European Policy, 12 October 2006). “Nobody can seriously claim victory or concede defeat based on today’s [12 October] parliamentary decision, which keeps all options open for the future,” said opponent Florian Müller of No Software Patents, who added that the outcome could go either way. The amendments now will be used to fine-tune the EPLA, which McCreevy hopes will ensure a majority vote on the EPLA in Parliament later, a Parliament spokesperson told Intellectual Property Watch. McCreevy will have a new EPLA proposal ready for the Parliament by the end of this year, the spokesperson said, but it is not clear when a vote on whether the EU should join the EPLA will take place. Amendments call for “significant improvements” A total of 10 amendments were put forward by cross-section groups of parties before the 12 October vote, the spokesperson said, and amendments one, three and seven were accepted. Amendment one, put forward by PES, “Reminds the Commission that all legislative proposals should be accompanied by an in-depth impact analysis related to patent quality, governance and legislative control of the patent system, judicial independence and litigation costs”; Amendment three, put forward by European United Left/Nordic Green Left, says: “whereas there have been growing concerns about undesirable patents in various fields and about a lack of democratic control over the processes by which such patents are granted, validated and enforced”; And amendment seven, put forward by a mixed group: “Urges the Commission to explore all possible ways of improving the patent and patent litigation systems in the EU, including participation in further discussions on the EPLA and acceding to the Munich Convention as well as revising the Community Patent proposals; as regards the EPLA, considers that the proposed text needs significant improvements, which address concerns about democratic control, judicial independence and litigation costs, and a satisfactory proposal for the rules of procedure of the EPLA court.” The seventh amendment is the important one, the spokesperson said. Some parties have expressed concern about the EPLA idea that “technical judges can (but not necessarily must) be drawn from the EPO [European Patent Office] technical board of appeal,” said MEP Sharon Bowles of ALDE. The vote came after a debate in Strasbourg on 28 September in which EU Internal Market and Services Commissioner Charlie McCreevy “advocated the ratification of the agreement, saying it would make the European patent system more effective,” according to the press release. McCreevy had asked the Parliament for permission to further work on the EPLA. If he had asked the Parliament for a vote on the current EPLA plan, it would have been rejected, especially since the Socialists and partly the Liberals were very critical, the spokesperson said. “The good news is that the Parliament is the first institution to have raised major objections concerning the draft EPLA in its present form,” said Müller. “The bad news is that the Parliament stopped short of throwing a spanner in the EPLA works, and we yet have to find the first political body to oppose the EPLA in stronger terms.” Tove Gerhardsen may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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