The European Patent Office has just published its online PDF version (5.9MB) of the 4 scenarios for the future. There is no doubt that the recent struggles over the practice of the Office on software and gene patents, as well as the strikes of the examiners and the flood of patents, has pushed the President Pompidou to initiate this report. Here is an extract from their European Patent Forum's page:
The patent system - a limitless system eating up itself
Many saw an ongoing expansion of the limits of patentability and referred to software, business methods and genetic inventions. In the context of genetic inventions, many felt the subject-matter belongs to nature and has been wrongly appropriated by patents. A limitless system, one participant said, would destroy itself in the end.
The above issues are critical and will impact the IP system of the future. Three years ago, the European Patent Office therefore started its "Scenarios for the Future" project, analysing the major driving forces behind IP. During the European Patent Forum, the final outcome of this project, the book "Scenarios for the future" was presented. This book contains further information and opinions about these issues - among many others - and hopefully will become the reference point for any forthcoming discussions on the future of IP.
The EPO has also installed a forum in order to collect comments of the public on several issues, such as:
- Will the number of applications really overwhelm the system?
- New (old) business models for information and communication technologies?
- Where should the limits to patentability be drawn? By whom?
- Is information and communications technology (ICT) blocked by patents?
- Can a largely one size fits all patent system serve the needs of different industries?
Those are very interesting questions, but some of them are not addressed at all, such as democratic control of the institution, or its future integration in the European Union. Or even the recent conflict of interests between the Office and the National Patent Office over the fees, the lack of confidence of the staff in its President and Administrative Council.