FSFE’s opening statement at WIPO SCP/14

This week, the WIPO Standing Committee on the Law of Patents is meeting in Geneva. From FSFE’s perspective, the two most important points on the agenda are the relation between standards and patents, and limitations to patentability.

We’ll go into details in the coming days. On patents and standards, one obvious point is that Free Software runs into all sorts of problems when implementing standards that include patented technology – just think of MP3.

The discussion about limitations to what can be patented is clearly very important for Free Software. Here, the delegates at WIPO will discuss, among other things, whether there should be international rules regarding patents on software.

As I said above, we’ll be having those discussions in the coming days. For now, please click through to FSFE’s opening statement, delivered today:

Statement by the Free Software Foundation Europe
submitted at WIPO SCP/14 on January 25, 2010.

The Free Software Foundation Europe would like to congratulate you on your
election to the Chair of this very important committee, as well the
two Vice-Chairs. We are confident that under your able guidance,
discussions will be productive, inclusive and balanced. We would also
like to congratulate Mr Pooley on his new office as Deputy Director
General of WIPO, and wish him success in his work.

We thank the Secretariat once more for the preparation of the Report
on the Internation Patent System (SCP/12/3 Rev 2), which is an
excellent and comprehensive document. We welcome the evidence-based
approach which is permeates large parts of this important document. We
also commend the Secretariat for its hard work in preparing the
preliminary studies now before this committee.

We note in particular that the report on the international patent
system (SCP/12/3 Rev 2) states a clear economic rationale for the patent
system, describing it as one among several tools to promote innovation
and development. The report invites us to consider where this
particular tool can be productively applied; but also to think about
where other regulations — or indeed the absence of regulation –
would do more to promote innovation and development.

In the light of these considerations, we strongly support the proposal
made by Brazil to create a working program in this committee for the
discussion of limitations and exceptions, and their effectiveness in
addressing development concerns.

Getting the relationship between patents and standards right will be
key to safeguarding and promoting innovation in the technology
sector.

In order to make use of the broad selection of tools we have available
to promote innovation, we believe that this committee’s work programme
should include a discussion of open and collaborative approaches to
innovation. We note the support which groups such as the International
Chamber of Commerce have just now expressed for these approaches. The
committee would also be enriched by a discussion of Open Standards as
an approach to enabling innovation and lowering the bar to market
entry.

With regard to the so-called Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement
(ACTA) that is being negotiated in Mexiko this week, we urge the SCP
to call on the negotiating countries to disclose the drafts for this
agreement, so that its consequences for the patent system can be
discussed, and we do not duplicate efforts. FSFE strongly objects to
the intransparent manner and secrecy in which the negotiations for
ACTA are being conducted. Such intransparency and secrecy are not
conducive to building confidence into the outcome of this negotiation
process.

With these preliminary remarks, we would like to conclude our
statement. We are looking forward to making more specific comments at
the time the preliminary studies are discussed.

Karsten Gerloff
President, Free Software Foundation Europe
Geneva, January 25 2010