Wednesday, April 5, 2017

New IP advocacy group warns: trolls now accounting for 20% of German patent suits

In mid-December, a new Brussels-based advocacy group named IP2Innovate (Intellectual Property 2 Innovate) made its first announcement. Its members include Google, Intel, Daimler, Spotify, Bull, adidas, Proximus, Wiko, and two other associations (the European Semiconductor Industry Association and the Syndicat de l'industrie des technologies de l'information). The new industry body is primarily concerned about the impact of patent trolls on innovative companies in Europe and believes that the situation will exacerbate dramatically if and when the Unified Patent Court is put in place.

Today, IP2Innovate (ip2i) issued a press release I'd like to draw additional attention to. According to the statement, "[t]he EU is facing a new explosion of patent infringement lawsuits from so-called patent trolls that are abusing Europe's legal system(s) for financial gain." Some examples of filings in France and Germany are provided, and IP2Innovate says that "[i]n Germany [lawsuits brought by patent trolls] now make up a staggering 20 percent of all patent lawsuits."

That's one of the two most disconcerting parts of the press release. The other one is this:

"But European Commissioner for the Digital Single Market, Andrus Ansip disagrees that new action is needed."

That is, however, not surprising to me. Since I became active in EU patent policy in 2004, I have not seen a single public statement on IP policy by any EU internal market commissioner (the first one whose statements I followed was Frits Bolkestein) or DG MARKT (Directorate-General for the Internal Market) official that was even remotely balanced. On various occasions I've had private correspondence, meetings and conversations with DG MARKT officials and in some cases I heard moderate and balanced things, but in the public debate, DG MARKT (whose input has presumably shaped Mr. Ansip's thinking) has always been promoting an expansive patent system and has consistently put the interests of the abusers of the system above those of legitimate innovators.

After all those years it's time for other commissioners and other DGs to take a more active role in patent policy. Europe's innovation policy, going back to the total disaster called "Lisbon Agenda," is just ridiculous. It's time for Europe's political leadership to recognize that DG MARKT's patent radicalism--it's basically behaving as if it were a division of the European Patent Office--has failed the European economy and European citizens alike.

Hopefully, the companies that have already thrown their weight behind such initiatives as IP2Innovate (and I hope that other key players and other associations will join them soon) will be able to convince other EU commissioners and other DGs that Europe will fall further behind in innovation if the patent extremists and fundamentalists continue to get their way.

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