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EU Patent Examiners Warn Parliament Will Have "No Power"

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the abdication-by-another-name dept.

Government 99

zoobab writes "The Staff Union of the European Patent Organisation sent a letter to the President of the European Parliament, warning that after the EU accedes to the European Patent Convention, there is a risk that the European Parliament would be 'circumvented' as a legislator. The European Patent Organisation is in no way a model of democracy: national patent offices are in power, there is no parliament involved in the decision-making process, and diplomatic conferences are held behind closed doors. There are plans to create a central patent court in Europe, which would operate in a democratic vacuum, not counterbalanced by any legislative assembly, in particular not the European Parliament. Such a central patent court could also validate software patents via caselaw (as the German Supreme Court recently did with the Microsoft FAT patent). And Microsoft, IBM, and SAP are lobbying in Brussels not to reopen consideration of the software patent directive."

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99 comments

UPLS info from http://en.swpat.org (5, Informative)

ciaran_o_riordan (662132) | more than 4 years ago | (#32180210)

The United Patent Litigation System replaces the EPLA. The official justifications are that it will decrease bureaucracy and costs. As a side effect (which is the real motivation of some pushers), it will push aside the European Parliament (which threw out swpats in 2005), and give more power to the European Patent Office (which approves almost as much as the USPTO does). More details:

hats off for the Staff Union of the EU Patent Offi (1)

kubitus (927806) | more than 4 years ago | (#32180342)

BTW : good info -

Required (3, Interesting)

twisteddk (201366) | more than 4 years ago | (#32180370)

While I appreaciate the links and information. I even more appreaciate the fact that someone finally said what as needed (and was heard).

As a patentholder (no, hardware, not software), I can vouch for the fact that a centralized european patent office is sorely needed. Currently, getting a patent in all of europe depends on first finding a patent office that WILL grant you the patent (which can be hard because most of 'em sit on their arse saying; "Ee dont under stand this technology, it's new to us". Yeah morons, ofcourse it's new, otherwise I wouldn't be patenting it, now would I ?), and then running around to every OTHER patent office in europe and saying "But THEY already gave me the patent rights".

And this is not only difficult, but also expensive and an entry barrier for new technology movers and inventors.

Re:Required (4, Insightful)

FlorianMueller (801981) | more than 4 years ago | (#32180394)

There's no question that the current setup, in which the European Patent Office only performs a unified examination of a patent application but doesn't really grant a single European patent, is suboptimal from the perspective of those taking out patents. It's also an inefficiency that patent litigation can currently only take place on a country-by-country basis (including invalidation, unless oppositions happens early enough so that the EPO itself could reject the patent application).

However, if an international construct such as the European patent system is made more efficient and powerful, then that increase in power and efficiency should be accompanied by an at least proportional increase in power of democratically elected lawmakers governing the same field of policy-making. That should be a governing principle regardless of whether hardware, software or other patents are at stake. The patent examiners' union raises that point and basically says that the exact opposite is happening from their point of view: more power and less control.

Re:Required (2, Insightful)

Elektroschock (659467) | more than 4 years ago | (#32181938)

Who are the persons? Unelected conspirators govern the EPO? Bilderberg group?

Re:Required (2, Insightful)

FlorianMueller (801981) | more than 4 years ago | (#32182062)

Elektroschock wrote:

Who are the persons? Unelected conspirators govern the EPO? Bilderberg group?

I don't think the staff union of the European Patent Office or the FFII wanted to suggest any kind of conspiracy theory. In my report on the FFII's criticsm of the proposed reform [blogspot.com] , that thinking is explained under the following subhead:

The theory of a "captive" court system

(contains a reference to what a justice of the SCOTUS said about the patent-specialized CAFC)

Re:Required (1)

Elektroschock (659467) | more than 4 years ago | (#32182654)

"Who" are the persons behind?

The 'Who' question (1)

FlorianMueller (801981) | more than 4 years ago | (#32183204)

Elektroschock wrote:

"Who" are the persons behind?

The FFII generally referred to them, as I wrote on my blog [blogspot.com] , as "the patent movement", meaning national government officials whose careers are tightly linked to the patent system.

Re:Required (4, Insightful)

Pinky's Brain (1158667) | more than 4 years ago | (#32180444)

Or you know, you can just file an application at the ALREADY EXISTING European Patent Office.

http://www.epo.org/patents/Grant-procedure/Filing-an-application/European-applications.html [epo.org]

This isn't about application/grants ... this is about enforcement (and consequently patentability).

Re:Required (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32185848)

I agree with the parent, and I'd like to add that the usual slashdot ethos should support the current EPO system. The national validation of European patents might look inefficient, but it maintains several critical aspects of typical patent regimes. You want a European patent valid in Greece? Why shouldn't you file a Greek translation with the Greek office and pay them to publish it? Without doing so, you'd be demanding a monopoly for technology for which you've failed to give notice to potential infringers. You'd also be failing to provide a foundational document for further work or research. Instead, the vast majority of technology covered by European patents is completely open in Greece because few companies undertake that expense to protect that market. But my cold fusion? Patented everywhere in Europe at significantly less expense than if I fooled around with examination in all those individual countries.

This in itself is why individual national enforcement actions make sense- not every country is necessarily implicated by one European patent. To argue that one infrigner operating in 10 countries requires 10 full trials in 10 countries is specious- win at their German/French/Italian/whatever headquarters and you'll stop them everywhere else. 10 infringers in 10 different countries? Exactly the same as if 10 infringers were all operating in the same country- you'd need to shut them all down individually. Translation costs, sure, and other costs of suing across a border, but are we really saying you should be able to make monopoly money somewhere and not subject yourself to their language and legal system to resolve disputes?

Re:Required (5, Insightful)

Jurily (900488) | more than 4 years ago | (#32180566)

And this is not only difficult, but also expensive and an entry barrier for new technology movers and inventors.

While that is true, please consider the following scenario:

1. Create office with power, without responsibility, and without anyone in the bureaucratic machine who can question their decisions
2. Install own people (did I mention it's not an elected body?)
3. WELCOME BACK SOFTWARE PATENTS

At least the national patent offices have clearly defined authorities they report to. Do we really need more red tape to sync databases?

Re:Required (2, Informative)

swilver (617741) | more than 4 years ago | (#32180682)

All I can say is... good. I see no value in short-lived monopolies. I believe ideas (or tiny extensions of existing ideas in most patent cases) can occur (near) simultaneously -- in which case the patent is nothing short of paying for your own private monopoly, which can be enforced even if someone has a similar idea independently (this last bit is my main beef with patents in general).

I'm convinced that a harder-to-use patent system is actually the reason that there's such a huge amount of florishing smaller companies in Europe -- patents are a cost of doing business, a well hidden one, but it is there. This cost can become huge if you lack the patent portfolio of the bigger fish to make closed doors deals with each other.

Re:Required (4, Insightful)

aurispector (530273) | more than 4 years ago | (#32180794)

Patents will always be a double edged sword. A guy with a great idea can easily have it stolen by a large company in the same field with the ability to create and market the product much faster. Knock off companies become king. Think of an entire world full of unscrupulous chinese manufacturers forever cloning other people's products.

OTOH big companies with deep pockets can play the patent troll game far easier than in individual entrepreneur/inventor.

Ideally a patent provides a limited time period for inventors to profit from their idea, encouraging innovation while including a mechanism whereby these innovations can eventually pass into the public domain for the benefit of the general public.

The entire purpose of the EU was to reduce the crippling bureaucratic balkanization and get all the countries working from the same playbook. How can you expect a small country with, for example, no electronics manufacturing to have patent office expertise for that industry?

The big problem with the current issue isn't patents but the lack of checks and balances. The core idea of democracy is that every part of government has "civilian oversight".

The small guy already lost. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32182734)

The small guy already lost. The big company whips out a much larger patent portfolio and "cross licenses" for nothing the product. Or the small guy is gulled by a patent troll and can't even afford the court appearance.

Re:Required (1)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | more than 4 years ago | (#32180782)

And this is not only difficult, but also expensive and an entry barrier for new technology movers and inventors.

Anything that makes it more difficult to get a patent has my unequivocal support. Patents are not worth the trouble they cause in any field. Encouraging innovation is not worth the price paid in the form of the litigation and legal costs which are seising up not only our economies, but also out societies and culture.

Patents need to die.

Re:Required (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32180806)

What on earth are you talking about? You clearly have no real experience of filing a European patent application at all. There IS a centralized European patent office. http://www.epo.org/ [epo.org] When you file a European patent application, you apply through the EPO. You certainly don't need to go 'finding a patent office that WILL grant you the patent'. No national office has the power to grant you a European patent anyway. Mod parent down.

Re:Required (3, Informative)

Ash-Fox (726320) | more than 4 years ago | (#32181878)

Currently, getting a patent in all of europe depends on first finding a patent office that WILL grant you the patent (which can be hard because most of 'em sit on their arse saying

Please stop talking bullshit, I own patents myself and never had to do that, see http://www.epo.org/ [epo.org]

Re:Required (1)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 4 years ago | (#32184242)

To further clarify - there is actually no such thing as an "European Patent". However, you can apply for a patent at the EPO, which will be the only office researching and examining your application. If and when the EPO grants the "European Patent", national patents for every EPC member state you named in your application come into existence, without the national patent offices having a say in the matter. The so-called European patent actually exists as a bundle of national patents in all named member states.

Re:Required (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 4 years ago | (#32184456)

It's a patent office, of course they're unaccustomed to seeing anything new or original!

Re:UPLS info from http://en.swpat.org (2, Informative)

Theaetetus (590071) | more than 4 years ago | (#32181080)

it will push aside the European Parliament (which threw out swpats in 2005)

You keep repeating this in multiple threads, but it's still not true. The EU threw out patents on software per se. That's exactly the same holding as Bilski - software per se is unpatentable, but if it is tied to a computer, it is patentable both as a method and as a system. There are software patents being issued every week in the EU.

More precisely (1)

ciaran_o_riordan (662132) | more than 4 years ago | (#32181220)

> The EU threw out patents on software /per se/

What makes you say that? The background was that the legislation excludes "swpats as such", and the EPO interprets so narrowly to be almost non-existant. The story with the EU is that the Commission proposed to clearly allow software patents, and it was discussed at great volume levels for a few years, and the Parliament threw out the Commission's proposal almost unanimously.

This means there was no change in the legislation, so were back to the crappy situation where the EPO is granting whatever it likes, but it's still true that the Parliament's action was to throw out a proposal to legitimatise software patents. Here's the story at greater length:

Re:More precisely (1)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 4 years ago | (#32184324)

The current situation is that the EPO tends to separate the claims of your application into technical and non-technical properties. The non-technical properties are viewed as "pre-inventive", as something like a design goal, and therefore can not contribute to the novelty or non-obviousness of the subject-matter. The examination is then done only regarding the technical properties. For example, if you apply for an algorithm with steps A-D, performed on a computer (steps A-D being some numeric calculation for example), the examiner will classify steps A-D as non-technical, so the only remaining technological aspect is the "computer" - instant rejection. Of course, in practice it is not always easy to separate technical and non-technical properties, so you can have nice, long discussions with your examiner on that topic...

As always - disclaimer: This is not legal advice, IANAL (yet), and if I was, I would not be yours. Do not rely on this post in any way.

Re:UPLS info from http://en.swpat.org (2, Insightful)

Alsee (515537) | more than 4 years ago | (#32182056)

I followed it fairly closely at the time. The EU Council created legislation that would have solidly established Software Patents. The EU Parliament then passed several reasonably solid amendments against Software Patents. And then the legislation was killed. Some would speculate that it was killed because certain interests decided that the existing muddy EU patent situation was preferable to permitting the EU Parliament to legislate against Software Patents.

The EU Parliament definitely sided against that "per se" crap.

-

Re:UPLS info from http://en.swpat.org (1)

FlorianMueller (801981) | more than 4 years ago | (#32182354)

Alsee wrote:

Some would speculate that it was killed because certain interests decided that the existing muddy EU patent situation was preferable to permitting the EU Parliament to legislate against Software Patents.

All of that is right "per se" ;-) but let me clarify that the European Parliament's amendments wouldn't have resulted directly in a new law. The Parliament's amended bill would have gone back to the EU Council. In that one, the proponents of software patents had approximately 70% of the votes, and roughly 30% were needed to block a proposal. So the Council's qualified majority in favor of software patents was in doubt at the time (we, the opponents of the proposal, actually believed that we had a blocking minority in place at the relevant time), but they still had more than twice as many votes in the pro-software-patent camp as the number they would have needed to block a proposal they wouldn't have liked. What the pro-software-patent camp feared, however, was that a heavily amended bill going back from the Parliament to the Council could hav resulted in a compromise unfavorable to their interests (which is exactly what we feared as well from our point of view, and that's how rejection was brought about).

Re:UPLS info from http://en.swpat.org (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32202568)

    The United Patent Litigation System replaces the EPLA. The official justifications are that it will decrease bureaucracy and costs. As a side effect (which is the real motivation of some pushers), it will push aside the European Parliament (which threw out swpats in 2005), and give more power to the European Patent Office (which approves almost as much as the USPTO does). More details:

nothing in patents but a denial of democracy.. and the recreation of the feudal system.

Guillotine!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32180256)

Here they are again pushing their agenda.

This will not end until we start using the guillotine again.

Re:Guillotine!! (0)

Arancaytar (966377) | more than 4 years ago | (#32180288)

Better write to the estate of M. Guillotin to license his patent for that. :P

Re:Guillotine!! (3, Funny)

ArsenneLupin (766289) | more than 4 years ago | (#32180760)

Long expired

Re:Guillotine!! (1)

517714 (762276) | more than 4 years ago | (#32182340)

And under utilized!

Software is simply not of patent-able matter. (4, Interesting)

3seas (184403) | more than 4 years ago | (#32180292)

The pursuit of software patents is teh pursuit of fraud and public deception.
abstraction physics application (including software)is a human right and duty. [abstractionphysics.net]

Beware of software patent pursuers bearing gifts.

why this game of othello, reversi continues... (2, Insightful)

3seas (184403) | more than 4 years ago | (#32180588)

Its really simple, nobody wants to deal with the matter for the honesty of the matter.
Neither Proprietary patent supporting parties nor open source patent free parties.

Why is also simple. The honesty of the matter of software would result in not only no software patents but also in genuinely free software, free in the since of making it possible for anyone to create software.

Current software development methodologies are like the roman numeral system in mathematics, where it takes specialization and trade secrets to do any complex math. But then came along the Hindu-Arabic decimal system that enabled the population to do math even beyond the experts. And the experts probably argued that only a fool would think nothing can have value (the zero place holder), as today the coding experts claim the user is not interested in creating programs. Where the fact is that users just don't want it to be a full time job requiring years of schooling and/or heavy personal pursuit. They just want to create or modify occasionally, no different than occasionally using math or a calculator to determine a result.

But the current software development methodologies do not support "occasionally". And the unnecessary level of overcomplexifabulocation in software development is the "only a fool would want to do it occasionally" false defense.

Help Prove Software is not Patentable and end this matter once and for all, and it is provable, otherwise you are playing othello, reversi.

And anyone who has been following this software patent battle damn well knows this othello, reversi game well, even if only as a spectator.

Re:Software is simply not of patent-able matter. (0, Flamebait)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 4 years ago | (#32182960)

I think it is fundamentally wrong to separate software from (other) ideas. After all, software is nothing more than a written down idea.

But I think that no idea should be “patentable”. I even think that such a process should not exist at all, since in reality it is 1. not enforceable anyway, and 2. only stifles innovation. Since every idea builds upon other ideas.
But I still think inventors should be getting something for their ideas.

Of course unifying the two is the problem. ;)
But since it’s the only morally right choice, we have to find it anyway.

I can only see one chance for a solution: By the physics of bitspace (which are also the laws of ideas and neural networks like the brain), there is only one moment where an inventor can demand something in return: When first telling someone about it. After that, it depends on the trustworthiness of those he told it. Which is case of a company, patent office, magazine, or anyone who is not a very close friend, is absolutely zero. (If you think otherwise you are living in a delusion.)

Re:Software is simply not of patent-able matter. (1)

3seas (184403) | more than 4 years ago | (#32184386)

And then there is copyright, different from patents but applicable to software.

- how I hate these progress blocking bloodsuck (2, Insightful)

kubitus (927806) | more than 4 years ago | (#32180316)

those lobbyists are preventing progress for the sake of established bloodsucking institutions and Associations.

the equivalent would have been in medieval times the monks to block the printing press after they realized that not only bibles can be printed!

Oh my God I hate these lobbyists and IP-lords!

Report on European Commission agenda and criticism (5, Interesting)

FlorianMueller (801981) | more than 4 years ago | (#32180322)

I listened to a European Commission official (the one who's considered the driving force behind the "patent reform" effort in question) as well as to Benjamin Henrion, the president of the FFII and submitter of this slashdot story, at a conference in Vienna, Austria, a week ago. On my FOSS Patents blog, I have published a report juxtaposing what the EU official said with the FFII's criticism [blogspot.com] .

It's probably easy to figure out where I personally stand, given that I founded and ran the European NoSoftwarePatents campaign and that I also opposed the original proposal named EPLA (European Patent Litigation Agreement). Nevertheless I tried my best to give both sides of the argument fair and accurate representation of their statements and views on my blog.

There are indeed reasons to be concerned about a drift toward software patents in Europe, not only at the legislative level but also in terms of judicial decisions. In the past, the highest German court in such matters applied tough tests such as the controllable-forces-of-nature criterion to distinguish software patent applications from technical inventions. However, a few weeks ago it upheld one of Microsoft's FAT patents, as this slashdot article also mentions. As I explained on my blog, this could be but need not be a "FATal patent ruling" [blogspot.com] . The detailed decision must be analyzed once available in order to understand whether the ruling related to the question of patentable subject matter. It's possible that it was only about inventiveness/prior art, given that the relevant court is an appeals court to which typically only certain (but very rarely all) aspects of a case are referred. In that case, the appeals court would not have been allowed to comment on non-referred issues (no matter how striking those might have been). Patent attorneys in Europe often try not to raise the question of patentable subject matter in their appeals because they would bite the hand that feeds them if they achieved rulings restricting the scope of patentable subject matter. They generally prefer to make invalidation cases on such grounds as "not inventive [as compared to prior art]", "not new [due to prior art]", "not sufficiently disclosed".

Another example of software patents that are already (unfortunately) quite enforceable in Europe are multimedia codec patents, such as MP3 and MP4 patents. It's become an annual ritual at CeBIT that dozens of confiscations of "pirated product", of which MP3 players are probably the largest group, take place on the first day of the show. I mentioned this in a recent blog post on multimedia patents [blogspot.com] .

Re:Report on European Commission agenda and critic (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32182330)

On my FOSS Patents blog, I have published a report juxtaposing what the EU official said with the FFII's criticism [blogspot.com].

The FFII and the European Union are institutions I admire. You are very opinionated as an activist about patents but only strong political organisations like these may keep a patent office accountable. Patent reform is high on their agenda, blogger activism is not enough. We need to support them (donate to FFII [ffii.org] ) , support their agenda in any possible way. Without the EU there would still be wars in Europe.

Re:Report on European Commission agenda and critic (2, Insightful)

Hurga (265993) | more than 4 years ago | (#32182932)

I don't get why MP3 patents are enforceable. If it was special hardware they are running on, I would understand it, but - for example -the Sandisk Sansa players, which were confiscated at Cebit some years ago and one of which I incidentally own, are generic hardware, simple MP3 decoding on the ARM CPUs of the player, no DSP or custom chip support. If that is enforceable, everything is. Or where is the difference to other software?

The MP3 example (2, Interesting)

FlorianMueller (801981) | more than 4 years ago | (#32183274)

Hurga wrote:

I don't get why MP3 patents are enforceable. If it was special hardware they are running on, I would understand it, but - for example -the Sandisk Sansa players, which were confiscated at Cebit some years ago and one of which I incidentally own, are generic hardware, simple MP3 decoding on the ARM CPUs of the player, no DSP or custom chip support. If that is enforceable, everything is. Or where is the difference to other software?

Your question is right on. MP3 patents are pure software patents: compression algorithms and some of the patents don't even define a particular compression algorithm but just methods for how to organize compression (such as an iterative approach: compressing with increasing lossiness factors until the result fits into an allotted amount of memory.

In a software-patent-free world, MP3 would not be patentable either. However, substantive patent law is a complex and tricky field and differences can be subtle, resulting in one patent being upheld by a court and a seemingly similar one being thrown out. Sometimes the difference is just in how the patent application is worded. Some attorneys do a better job of presenting their patents as "technical inventions" than others.

Re:The MP3 example (1)

Khashishi (775369) | more than 4 years ago | (#32185272)

Or, the differences can be immaterial and similar patents are thrown out due to fickle and arbitrary power.

The general idea... (-1, Flamebait)

captainpanic (1173915) | more than 4 years ago | (#32180340)

I thought that the general idea of Europe was to give no power to the people?
Already, the majority of the laws come from a group of people that we never elected. The Lissabon treaty was pushed through despite referenda in several countries speaking out against it: worse than a dictatorship, at least a dictator does not ask the people what they want before doing something unpopular.

In the light of recent developments in Europe, this article does not surprise me.

The EU is not simply run by a small elite (5, Informative)

FlorianMueller (801981) | more than 4 years ago | (#32180420)

I have spent a fair amount of time in Brussels in recent years, starting with my campaign against software patents in Europe. While I understand what you mean to say with your criticism, I would disagree that the EU is inherently undemocratic, let alone antidemocratic.

The EU is a complex construct: it's neither a federation such as the United States or Germany nor an international organization such as the World Trade Organization. It's an in-between, it's a supranational alliance of countries, and that entails a setup in which the national governments of the EU Member States still wield a lot of power. Otherwise we would have (for better or worse, which is not the question) a system more similar to that of the United States, in which the sovereignty of each state is very limited compared to that of an EU Member State.

The original idea of a united Europe was a peace project. It was not about liberalizing markets, although even that is not necessarily against the interests of citizens. As someone who travels a lot in Europe, I can see some of the benefits that the EU has brought to citizens, such as the cap on mobile phone roaming charges that the EU imposed a few years ago.

The complexity of the EU's structures has the effect that only a limited number of people even understand how decisions are taken. There's probably just a minority of US citizens who know exactly all of the procedural possibilities concerning conciliation between the Senate and the House (such as the "deemed passed" principle that the Democrats were considering at some point to push the healthcare bill through), but at least people in the US will know their senators and probably also their congressmen (for their constituencies). Here in Europe, people generally don't know their MEPs (Members of the European Parliament). The media don't report because Brussels seems so remote, processes are complicated and time-consuming, and even when a legislative decision is taken, it usually takes time before it gets implemented by the Member States (enshrined in national laws) -- two years is the standard period that EU directives allow for that purpose. Most of the problems that people criticize when talking about the EU's "democratic deficit" could be solved by the Fourth Estate (the media), but there's a chicken-and-egg problem because citizens don't know about "Brussels" for lack of media coverage and the media don't report much for lack of interest by their audiences.

I also think one has to acknowledge in all fairness that the European Parliament's powers have been significantly enhanced by the Lisbon Treaty. I can understand if people say it was not enough, but there has certainly been progress, with now pretty much all decisions requiring the support of the Parliament (either through co-decision or assent procedures).

Re:The EU is not simply run by a small elite (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32180640)

Florian, I do appreciate infinitely what you are doing. It's courageous and edicated folks like you who make the world a better place.

That said, I, as an European voted *for* the European Constitution (I'm Spanish). Having seen the farce which evolved in front of my eyes ("so we don't get a Constitution: we give ourselves the Lisbon treaty") I must say I regret having done so.

Those Eurocrats seem to want the legitimization without actually being bound by democracy. A Parliament which is elect4ed but has no say and a Commission which takes the bribes^H^H talks to the interest groups.

I must say I'm very disappointed (I still cast my vote as an European though).

Re:The EU is not simply run by a small elite (-1, Troll)

FuckingNickName (1362625) | more than 4 years ago | (#32180700)

I can see some of the benefits that the EU has brought to citizens, such as the cap on mobile phone roaming charges

I can't think of anything more irrelevant and inappropriate for a government to get involved in. Woohoo, a byzantine superstate but at least I can make cheaper unnecessary calls in Poland!

The complexity of the EU's structures has the effect that only a limited number of people even understand how decisions are taken.

That's very patronising, and typical of the attitude the EU wants to promulgate: "We're doing stuff in your interest; too complex for you to understand. Let us get on with it... or do you want us to go back to WW2? Are you racist?" A sheet of A4 could effectively summarise the EU's decision-making process in principle. (A different sheet could effectively summarise the EU's decision-making process in practice - but the same applies for any organisation.)

Here in Europe, people generally don't know their MEPs

Know in what sense? Their names? What they stand for? I don't *care* about my MEP, because I don't care for that layer of government. The EU (as in, what's new to the EU, not previous peace agreements and free trade agreements) has done little to nothing for Britain, and its main effects on the country have been to introduce harmonised law to protect the interests of foreigners (e.g. farmers) and multinationals (e.g. Microsoft) and to increase taxation to prevent competition between EU states (e.g. 15% VAT minimum). Its idea of democracy, as with the EU Constitution and restrictive patent law - possibly the most wishy-washy nonsense of a Constitution ever written - is to repeatedly bash an idea via different legislative methods until it is in some way accepted.

Most of the problems that people criticize when talking about the EU's "democratic deficit" could be solved by the Fourth Estate (the media)

Wait, what? You're blaming the media for the undemocratic nature of the EU? When has it been the responsibility of the private presses to promote some political bureaucracy in the way you like? Quiet disdain is the approach of the British press, and quiet disdain is what the EU deserves. If you don't like that, start up your own web site and try to make people care.

with now pretty much all decisions requiring

"Except where we've built in exceptions" is the lasting mantra of EU democracy.

Re:The EU is not simply run by a small elite (3, Interesting)

FuckingNickName (1362625) | more than 4 years ago | (#32181182)

You can mod parent down to oblivion, even when everything in it is true, and while Mueller's campaigning has proved it right. For when you try to defeat a motion democratically in the EU, and succeed, they'll push it again and again; if after the 3rd or 4th time they haven't worn you down, they'll just invoke another method using the less democratic EU frameworks to enforce it.

While people continue to support pro-EU activists who are convinced that democratic grass roots lobbying works in the EU as it might work in a national democracy, they will contribute toward the problem of helping the EU Wizard of Oz distract citizens from how it really works. It's like watching people cheerlead de Icaza while he either very misguidedly or very dishonestly waves the MS flag.

Re:The EU is not simply run by a small elite (1)

FlorianMueller (801981) | more than 4 years ago | (#32181588)

Just to avoid any misunderstanding, I certainly didn't mod your comments down.

You said they'll push again and again if a proposal fails the first or second time, and that is certainly a trait of EU politics. The "Constitution" got replaced by a "Reform Treaty", and that one had to be voted on twice in Ireland (but the second vote was still democratic, people still had the chance to vote against and many actually did, but not enough to scupper the proposal). While EU officials continue to claim that there are no plans to reintroduce a software patent directive (officially called "directive on the patentability of computer-implemented inventions"), they might achieve a similar net effect as one of the effects of the current "patent reform" proposal [blogspot.com] .

If you say that grassroots lobbying doesn't work in the EU, then I'd be curious to see a similar political body - in terms of size and state of economic development, only the US seems reasonably comparable -- where it works better (note that I mean this in relative -- not in absolute -- terms).

Re:The EU is not simply run by a small elite (3, Interesting)

Kjella (173770) | more than 4 years ago | (#32180926)

The original idea of a united Europe was a peace project. It was not about liberalizing markets,

My history might be off but I understood it that even back from the steel and coal union it was to unite through trade. Basically you can't easily change human nature but if war would send both countries into economic ruin they'd rather solve it peacefully.

and even when a legislative decision is taken, it usually takes time before it gets implemented by the Member States (enshrined in national laws) -- two years is the standard period that EU directives allow for that purpose.

This is the biggest problem with the EU directives, they're not being passed directly into law. What practically happens is that all the criticism is shot down as FUD, that's not what the law will say. And when finally the national law comes and the law is exactly as terrible you get what I call democracy theater - like security theater. All the essential moments are already in the directive, you can only pick your degree and flavor of poison. Oh they may score some cheap political points, they can throw a few temper tantrums and run a round with the EU - but EU always wins and the directive is implemented anyway. That's what the media should report "Too late - directive passed". Then hopefully people would get a clue that it's the directives and the people that pass them that matter. But that'd give away the secret of how much EU decides and how little power the national parliaments have left.

Re:The EU is not simply run by a small elite (1)

FlorianMueller (801981) | more than 4 years ago | (#32181190)

My history might be off but I understood it that even back from the steel and coal union it was to unite through trade. Basically you can't easily change human nature but if war would send both countries into economic ruin they'd rather solve it peacefully

Your history isn't off but I can complement this:

Initially the key objective was indeed, in the wake of WW2, to prevent wars within Europe.

The idea of the founding fathers of the EU, such as Monnet and Schuman, was to start with economic integration and cooperation (coal and especially steel were obviously a good starting point to keep Germany peaceful) but always with the long-term vision of economic integration -- through the acceptance of a joint European governing body and framework -- being taken further and further over the decades and ultimately resulting in political union, in a United States of Europe.

Euroskeptics such as the UK Independence Party mention that original master plan of the "federalists" over and over, and it's true per se that this is what they wanted.

Re:The EU is not simply run by a small elite (0, Troll)

Elektroschock (659467) | more than 4 years ago | (#32181860)

The original idea of a united Europe was a peace project. It was not about liberalizing markets, although even that is not necessarily against the interests of citizens.

Why are you against liberalizing market?

I didn't say I'm against liberalizing markets (1)

FlorianMueller (801981) | more than 4 years ago | (#32181962)

I pointed out that liberalization, which is what the EU is now mostly known for, was not the original number one priority.

I generally like the idea of a large European market and it's good if the EU opens up markets that its Member States are sometimes hesitant to liberalize/deregulate.

Re:The general idea... (0, Troll)

captain_dope_pants (842414) | more than 4 years ago | (#32180652)

As far as I can make out the current idea of the EU is to provide a bunch of cash for all the MEPs, their flunkeys, other assorted civil "servants" and just about anyone else even vaguely connected with the whole rotten edifice.

The EU commission (iirc) hasn't even had it books audited and correctly signed off for about 12 years.

Re:The general idea... (4, Insightful)

lordholm (649770) | more than 4 years ago | (#32180758)

No, the main goal have always been further integration and democracy within the Union, however, certain groups who often complain that the EU is undemocratic refuse to let it become more democratic, i.e. Eurosceptics such as the British Conservative party or the UKIP, because apparently a democratic Union would undermine national sovereignty.

Re:The general idea... (1)

Ash-Fox (726320) | more than 4 years ago | (#32181534)

certain groups who often complain that the EU is undemocratic refuse to let it become more democratic i.e. Eurosceptics such as the British Conservative party or the UKIP

That is bullshit. How they are stopping it from being democratic to begin with? Hell, look at ukip, the majority of the time they are standing their opposing any decisions that was made undemocratically and if they are unable to stop those decisions, how are they stop democracy from occurring?

Here are a bunch of youtube videos I found without even trying, proving my point:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y_QPkRArPUk [youtube.com]
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OvKqnVBxqe4 [youtube.com]
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OpYC_D7VupI [youtube.com]
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xvWbINw3RZA [youtube.com]
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bxtcnmy8ctk [youtube.com]
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=13xb2QP3moM [youtube.com]
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uFRFA4wlVj [youtube.com]
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uFRFA4wlVj8 [youtube.com]

I look forward to your reply.

Re:The general idea... (1)

lordholm (649770) | more than 4 years ago | (#32181712)

Instead of pointing out the rhetoric they have been using in certain cases, you may want to address the issues that I pointed out initially. Explain why the UKIP, Conservatives and other "democrats" are constantly opposing granting more co-desicion rights to the ELECTED European parliament.

I am not going to watch all those videos now, since I am at work, but I may do that later tonight.

Re:The general idea... (1)

Ash-Fox (726320) | more than 4 years ago | (#32181982)

Explain why the UKIP, Conservatives and other "democrats" are constantly opposing granting more co-desicion rights to the ELECTED European parliament.

I can only think right now of how UKIP refuses to allow more control given to the European Union due to the fact there is promises that there will be democratic voting, but then the EU turns around and just makes the decisions regardless when people oppose the decisions.

If that isn't what you were referring to, could you provide links to the specific parliament talks you're referencing?

Re:The general idea... (1)

lordholm (649770) | more than 4 years ago | (#32185932)

Please tell me when this has happened, and I can reply. And no, Lisbon does not count since it was the Irish that changed their mind after amendments (as is usually the case in parliaments, a party may change its mind after some amendments). In the real world, no is not necessarily a no if there is a possibility for fixing the reason for the no, this is not undemocratic, unless you belong to the part that refuse to compromise in which case most likely anything that goes against your will is undemocratic.

Re:The general idea... (2, Interesting)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 4 years ago | (#32183146)

You realize that “further integration” is the opposite of “democracy” because it is the removal of choices, do you?
Logically it leads towards only one government, and you being unable to flee to anywhere else, if you happen to disagree.

But it’s all awwright, because it’s in the name of the oh-so-holy “democracy”, which, when you remove the pink glasses of delusion, is not any better than a communistic “transitional government” (those that somehow never ended).
They both still have a fatal flaw: There are humans leading others, that are expected to be completely unselfish.
Let’s face it: That ain’t gonna happen. Ever. People do care for themselves. People want themselves to succeed in evolution. Or else they would by the definition of evolution, not exist.
As long as the proxy between our wishes, and what becomes the law of the land, is other humans, it won’t ever work. Period.
Democracy only has one difference: It is the stealthiest of them all. And together with modern mass-media brainwashing it is in fact nearly perfectly concealable, since you can make people want to act against their own best interests.

In short: Unless that “government” is replaced by a “very small shell script” open-source client, that forms a distributed p2p trust network with an open API, a “one government” idea is the stuff of apocalyptic horror stories.

Re:The general idea... (1)

lordholm (649770) | more than 4 years ago | (#32185868)

"You realize that “further integration” is the opposite of “democracy” because it is the removal of choices, do you?"

Umm... no, that does not compute. Further integration means more power to the EP, and less to the Council. Though, the Council certainly have been elected in some sense by being elected to government in the member-states, they are not really accountable to anyone as a body (you cannot fire the council since that would mean firing all state-governments). With democracy, any normal person today mean representative democracy, and usually would be explicit if they want direct democracy as your shell-script solution.

Since the EP is directly accountable to its voters and the Council is not, moving power to the EP and thus further strengthening the federal side of the Union on the cost of the states, is more democratic since the EP answers to the voters, i.e. they are actually your representatives.

Re:The general idea... (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 4 years ago | (#32186630)

Umm... no, that does not compute.

May I recommend a upgrade in processing power then? ;)

Further integration means more power to the EP, and less to the Council.

I have no idea what you thought we were talking about. But we were talking about further integration of states into one country.
Which results in less governments to choose from. And that, like any monopoly, results in loss of freedom and more oppression by the monopoly.
While your idea of “democracy” is, that people can choose their government.

Which in happy wonder dreamland of rainbow and love world would also be true for world governments. But in actual reality isn’t even the case for countries as small an Luxemburg, or single cities. Because governing representative humans, as I said, are by the definition of being a life-form, primarily selfish. (Billions of years of evolution trained for ultimately only selfish life-forms to survive.)
Unfortunately, most people rather want to close their eyes in denial and continue living in fantasy world where being selfless is the big ideal (that is promoted by those who profit from others being selfless, who then because of that selfishness, are the winners of evolution).
Hence representative government is a hilarious absurdity. But hey, if you really want it... if you really want to be used and abused, who am I to judge? I’m just going to be one of those that you love so much to be abused by, and use it to win my round of natural selection. ^^

Since the EP is directly accountable to its voters

Yeah right... Suuuure... Go to the EP, and tell them that you do not accept their behavior and you will hold them accountable / punish them, and see what you will get. Go ahead. Tell me how much they are accountable. Tell me how anything they do in in any way influencable by you...
As I said: Happy wonder dreamland of rainbow and love world... with ponies, faeries and love bears hugging each other all day long...

Re:The general idea... (1)

lordholm (649770) | more than 4 years ago | (#32189754)

"Hence representative government is a hilarious absurdity."

Nothing is of-course perfect, the best decisions are taken by the individual, but since that is not practically possible for everything (e.g. where should we build a school et.c.), a public is necessary.

Direct democracy in term only work for small groups, where travelling distance is not a problem, though I suppose that now, we could in principle distribute the groups over a larger through technology, the groups must still be small.

Since, we need a public, I would be happy if the only unit was a municipality, however, this is not practically possible, since a municipality cannot build advanced infrastructure (small municipalities cannot build hospitals either). So, a province or state is necessary to manage these, here as in the municipality, direct democracy is impossible and you need representative governance, or it would all be chaos. If it would be possible, I would be happy with this being the limit and there was no higher level. But...

The state cannot by itself tackle the current problems such as climate change, the global economy et.c. The global economy in special as there are other big players there, like China, Russia, India and the US. If the Union would not exist and the European states would keep on bickering about petty things, then the entire continent would be divided into spheres of influence between these players (Sounds familiar? It already happened.) But since, we Europeans would be better off with keeping government local, a strong Union that can stand up against the rest is an absolute necessity, and the more accountable it is the better.

In fact, a federal Union is the only way to guarantee our independence in a reasonably democratic and accountable way (if it is not federal, i.e. confederal then it is not very democratic or accountable). If you have any other suggestions for how to do this in any other way, then please reply to this with your concrete suggestions.

Re:The general idea... (1)

lordholm (649770) | more than 4 years ago | (#32189796)

"You realize that “further integration” is the opposite of “democracy” because it is the removal of choices, do you?"

Democracy is about majority decisions, not about choices. But, if the plurality and diversity of your choices is something you are concerned about, would further integration not be the better thing here?

I mean, you get one more more choice of decision level: individual, family, community, municipality, province, state and union.

You will loose some options for the state, but in terms of choice for the individual, they increase with respect to the representation. Also, if you are talking about choice, I can now choose to move wherever in the Union I want to and take up a job there. An ability that a lot of people are using, that must surly increase your choices about where to live and settle down.

Instead of 'No Power' read 'No Pressure' (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32180374)

This situation is simply patent backers designing a system a nameless faceless politician can sign into law and keep his job.

Democracy in name for the sake of the wealthy.

Context: overall EU intellectual property agenda (3, Informative)

FlorianMueller (801981) | more than 4 years ago | (#32180378)

For those who are interested in what kinds of initiatives the EU is planning to take in connection with intellectual property rights beyond that new patent and patent court system, here's a summary of a speech [blogspot.com] by the Commission official driving the "patent reform" effort. Keywords: data retention, ACTA, Digital Agenda, aftermath of Microsoft case, Google Street View, open standards, open content, criminal prosecution of IPR infringers, trademarks, AdWords.

"intellectual property" laws:barf (2, Insightful)

MRe_nl (306212) | more than 4 years ago | (#32180514)

Or to put it politely;
Originality is the art of concealing one's sources.

"The distinction between creation and discovery is not clear cut or rigorous.Nor is it clear why such a distinction, even if clear, is ethically relevant in defining property rights. No one creates matter; they just manipulate and grapple with it according to physical laws. In this sense, no one really creates anything. They merely re arrange matter into new arrangements and patterns. An engineer who invents a new mousetrap has rearranged existing parts to provide a function not previously performed. Others who learn of this new arrangement can now also make an improved mousetrap. Yet the mousetrap merely follows laws of nature. The inventor did not invent the matter out of which the mousetrap is made, nor the facts and laws exploited to make it work.
Similarly, Einstein's "discovery" of the relation E=mc2, once known by others, allows them to manipulate matter in a more efficient way. Without Einstein's, or the inventor's, efforts, others would have been ignorant of certain causal laws, of ways matter can be manipulated and utilized. Both the inventor and the theoretical scientist engage in creative mental effort to produce useful, new ideas. Yet one is rewarded, and the other is not".(Kinsella, Stephan. "Against Intellectual Property").

"Stable ownership is the gift of social law, and is given late in the progress of society. It would be curious then, if an idea, the fugitive fermentation of an individual brain, could, of natural right, be claimed in exclusive and stable property. If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea, which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the possession of every one, and the receiver cannot dispossess himself of it. Its peculiar character, too, is that no one possesses the less, because every other possesses the whole of it. He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me. That ideas should freely spread from one to another over the globe, for the moral and mutual instruction of man, and improvement of his condition, seems to have been peculiarly and benevolently designed by nature, when she made them, like fire, expansible over all space, without lessening their density in any point, and like the air in which we breathe, move, and have our physical being, incapable of confinement or exclusive appropriation. Inventions then cannot, in nature, be a subject of property".
--Thomas Jefferson, to Isaac McPherson 13 Aug. 1813 Writings 13:333--35

Re:"intellectual property" laws:barf (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32180552)

I wish you idiots would stop trolling around that Jefferson quote. It is part of a long exchange of letters and deals with the argument of the patent as a natural right. Jefferson was not opposed to patents; he was instrumental in the creation of the Patent Office.

He was opposed to the argument, popular at the time, that there was a natural right to the fruits of intellectual labor. Jefferson writes in that same letter that real property is not a natural right, and thus what was called at the time industrial property, was, like ALL property, a social construct.

Using the quote to say that patents and copyrights aren't property is no more accurate than saying that real estate isn't property.

In nature, the only property that exists is that which you can physically defend from others who would want to obtain it. There is no form of property in civilized society that meets that criterion.

Re:"intellectual property" laws:barf (1)

MRe_nl (306212) | more than 4 years ago | (#32180738)

Jefferson had serious doubts about the Patent office, some of which are expressed in this part of the discourse. The entire exchange was somewhat long for a /. post.

He was opposed to the argument, popular at the time, that there was a natural right to the fruits of intellectual labor.Jefferson writes in that same letter that real property is not a natural right, and thus what was called at the time industrial property, was, like ALL property, a social construct.

And on this too i agree with Mr. Jefferson. Your point being?

Using the quote to say that patents and copyrights aren't property is no more accurate than saying that real estate isn't property.

Real estate isn't property per se. Stolen, squatted, ill-gained, abandoned etc. real estate would under circumstances not be seen as (your) property, even by law.

In nature, the only property that exists is that which you can physically defend from others who would want to obtain it. There is no form of property in civilized society that meets that criterion.

Au contraire, all forms of property in modern society meet that criterium. Property is defined by law, laws are defined by nation-states, and i think most nation-states can will try to physically defend themselves and their laws.

Re:"intellectual property" laws:barf (1)

Theaetetus (590071) | more than 4 years ago | (#32181106)

Jefferson had serious doubts about the Patent office, some of which are expressed in this part of the discourse.

No, he didn't. He was the director of the Patent Office and wrote the 1790 Act.

Re:"intellectual property" laws:barf (1)

MRe_nl (306212) | more than 4 years ago | (#32181576)

It might surprise you that sometimes the people most involved in any given sector are also those most critical of it.
Sometimes these people even carry on with their job, aware of the faults, addressing these to the best of their ability, and still remain critical of the system.
I am actually under the impression that all the so called "Founding fathers" possessed this trait in abundance.
"He was the director of the Patent Office and wrote the 1790 Act".
He was also an actor, firefighter, architect, pig breeder, calender maker, president, attorney, governor of Virginia, co-founder of the Democratic-Republican Party, author of the Declaration of Independence, founder of the University of Virginia, author of the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom and author of the Notes on the State of Virginia.
You think he didn't have any doubts about the system or indeed his own competence in any of those endeavors?
I think he embarked on them BECAUSE of his doubts.

Re:"intellectual property" laws:barf (1)

Theaetetus (590071) | more than 4 years ago | (#32182168)

It might surprise you that sometimes the people most involved in any given sector are also those most critical of it. Sometimes these people even carry on with their job, aware of the faults, addressing these to the best of their ability, and still remain critical of the system. I am actually under the impression that all the so called "Founding fathers" possessed this trait in abundance. "He was the director of the Patent Office and wrote the 1790 Act". He was also an actor, firefighter, architect, pig breeder, calender maker, president, attorney, governor of Virginia, co-founder of the Democratic-Republican Party, author of the Declaration of Independence, founder of the University of Virginia, author of the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom and author of the Notes on the State of Virginia. You think he didn't have any doubts about the system or indeed his own competence in any of those endeavors? I think he embarked on them BECAUSE of his doubts.

Yes, but to say "he had serious doubts about the Patent office," is either woefully naive or intentionally misleading. He had no doubts about whether the patent system should exist.

No, it's taking what Jefferson said. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32182964)

No, it's taking what Jefferson said. Jefferson said that he had serious doubts about the utility of patents. This is not naive or misleading, it's reporting what the man said!

Re:No, it's taking what Jefferson said. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32184044)

"Jefferson said that he had serious doubts about the utility of patents."

No he didn't.

Re:"intellectual property" laws:barf (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32181532)

Real estate isn't property per se.

Real estate is the fundamental form of property--indeed, it's called real property!

Au contraire, all forms of property in modern society meet that criterium. Property is defined by law, laws are defined by nation-states, and i think most nation-states can will try to physically defend themselves and their laws.

Well coming from the person who thinks real property isn't property per se, this is not an unsurprising statement, but it's still idiotic.

There is no form of property, in any modern society, contingent upon the owner's ability to fend off would-be takers with physical force. On the contrary, in most of the world, it is expressly illegal to use excessive force to defend mere possessions, on the theory that you can seek redress through the legal system like a civilized person.

Property is indeed defined by law, which is a social construct. There is thus no such thing as "natural" property. Law defines property to be an exclusive right, which includes, but is not limited to real property (land), personal property (chattels, like cars and shoes), intangible property (including money, contractual benefits, stocks, and yes, intellectual property). As long as the right is created by society through its laws, it's not natural. Jefferson was of the belief, and rightly so, that property is not natural. That doesn't mean it's not a right.

Re:"intellectual property" laws:barf (1)

MRe_nl (306212) | more than 4 years ago | (#32182502)

Not all real estate is property (more specifically private property), even though the legal term is "real property. I just dislike absolutes. But i admire the twist.
To state that it is fundamental is perhaps close to the truth. Was the concept of property evolved at all among hunter/gatherers?
There were/are some interesting takes on property even among native americans and aboriginals.
As for the state-monopoly on justice (and violence), that's just for the poor, the lawful and the powerless. Heavily armed (private) security seems to be the norm everywhere else.
I would in fact postulate that there is little real valuable property in any modern society, NOT contingent upon the owner's ability to fend off would-be takers with physical force.
It's just that legal and other forms of (state)force are more prevalent.

Re:"intellectual property" laws:barf (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32183258)

Not all real estate is property

Yes, it is.

To state that it is fundamental is perhaps close to the truth. Was the concept of property evolved at all among hunter/gatherers?

Irrelevant. Whether they are fundamental is a separate question from whether they are natural. You are attempting to use Jefferson's expression, influenced by Enlightenment thinkers, of the social contract and the rule of law to make a disingenuous point about intellectual property. Jefferson believed that there are no "natural" property rights of any kind, and the oft-quoted by ill-understood passage you've been hawking is about whether patents are natural property, and not whether they are property. Jefferson believed in protecting economic rights, he understood that patents were property, and he had no reservations about creating a patent system in the US. His reservations about the scope of patents are reflected in the limitations inherent in PSM.

Jefferson's argument that patents are not a natural right cannot be construed to mean anything other than exactly that. It is not an argument that they are not property, that they are or are not fundamental rights, or that they are or are not useful for society.

I would in fact postulate that there is little real valuable property in any modern society, NOT contingent upon the owner's ability to fend off would-be takers with physical force.

And you would be wrong. There is literally no one alive who is capable of defending his possessions against the world without relying on the law.

Re:"intellectual property" laws:barf (1)

king neckbeard (1801738) | more than 4 years ago | (#32184410)

And you would be wrong. There is literally no one alive who is capable of defending his possessions against the world without relying on the law.

With 100% efficiency? Certainly not. But the legal system is nowhere near that either. If you are saying that nobody could defend their possessions without a legal system, you've got to be kidding. The people protecting their property may not be inside the law, but we are assuming we aren't relying on the law.

Re:"intellectual property" laws:barf (1)

king neckbeard (1801738) | more than 4 years ago | (#32180844)

Not many people are completely opposed to patents, but the patent system is broken and our viewpoints on patents are broken as well. The clause in the constitution that allows for copyright and patents to exist clearly defines the reason behind them as 'To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts.' This makes it clear that patents in the US exist for the benefit of the public. not because inventors are inherently entitled to it, as calling them 'intellectual property' suggests. Patents act very different from physical property, as one's physical property doesn't disappear after 20 years.

Re:"intellectual property" laws:barf (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32182172)

The clause in the constitution that allows for copyright and patents to exist clearly defines the reason behind them as 'To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts.'

Yes, but too often it's read backwards as requiring that each issue be defensible, when in fact, it's the system that achieves the stated goal. In the language of the time, "Science" meant roughly what we call 'knowledge' today. The "useful Arts" are trades and industries (hence the utility requirement for patents, but no such requirement for copyrights).

The patent system is not broken. It is imperfect, as it will always be. There are real issues with the practical implementation, and plenty of improvements to be made, but most of the commonly-griped aspects exist by design or are human limitations.

not because inventors are inherently entitled to it, as calling them 'intellectual property' suggests.

The term does not connote anything resembling an inherent entitlement. People are not inherently entitled to any property except that which already belongs to them. I'm not sure what the basis of this perceived "suggestion" is.

Patents act very different from physical property, as one's physical property doesn't disappear after 20 years.

There is no such thing as "physical" property. Property is nothing more or less than a set of legal rights--that we call goods and legal interests "property" is metonymy--naming the whole after a part.

Tangible property, called chattels or personal property, is the smallest area of property under the law, and it is far more complex than you state. Most property is intangible, including real property (you're not principally buying the dirt and trees).

Further, most property does not last in perpetuity, and most purchases of property accomplish far less than a complete exhaustion of attached property rights. So the idea that buying something makes it "yours" and it lasts "forever" is a foolish notion even if the subject of intellectual property is never mentioned.

Personal property doesn't necessarily last forever (a concert ticket is a property interest that expires) and rarely involves a complete alienation of all property interests from an owner. It's an irrelevant fiction, and worse, a straw man, to state that patents are different from personal property.

Personal property is very different from proprietary interests in a service; service interests are very different from real property; real property is very different from money (intangible property); money is very different from intellectual property. They're all unique, often in grossly dissimilar ways, but they're all property because they all share the elemental trait of property: legal exclusivity.

Re:"intellectual property" laws:barf (1)

king neckbeard (1801738) | more than 4 years ago | (#32182728)

The patent system is not broken. It is imperfect, as it will always be. There are real issues with the practical implementation, and plenty of improvements to be made, but most of the commonly-griped aspects exist by design or are human limitations.

It has numerous problems that make it habitually fail to perform it's intended purpose, which is to be a net benefit to the public. That's about the most clear way a system could be broken.

The term does not connote anything resembling an inherent entitlement. People are not inherently entitled to any property except that which already belongs to them. I'm not sure what the basis of this perceived "suggestion" is.

The general public is quite keen on strong legal protections of property. People feel much stronger about shoplifting than for example copyright infringement. By equating the two, you'll have an easier time convincing the public to support further enforcement of copyright and less support for the protections of fair use. You can argue that property is not a natural right, but John Locke famously put it after life and liberty, and there are quite a few people that subscribe to that notion. The 'you wouldn't steal a car' anti-piracy campaign capitalizes on this.

Further, most property does not last in perpetuity, and most purchases of property accomplish far less than a complete exhaustion of attached property rights. So the idea that buying something makes it "yours" and it lasts "forever" is a foolish notion even if the subject of intellectual property is never mentioned

I didn't say it lasts forever. I said that it doesn't disappear after 20 years. I might consume, lose, break, or sell my personal property. I might hide it or I might bestow it to my heirs. The lifespan of property is not fixed by legal statutes, and it could potentially last indefinitely. There are certain time elements of laws regarding statutes of limitations, but that is very different from the public domain.

They're all unique, often in grossly dissimilar ways, but they're all property because they all share the elemental trait of property: legal exclusivity.

Patents and other legal intangibles are assets, not property. Property is a kind of asset, but not all assets are property.

Re:"intellectual property" laws:barf (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32183582)

It has numerous problems that make it habitually fail to perform it's intended purpose, which is to be a net benefit to the public.

And again, that's a backwards reading. It is a flat-out lie for anyone to claim that the patent system has not resulted in huge amounts of progress, innovation, and enrichment of society beyond what would occur absent patent protection.

The fact that some patents are wrongly issued or that there are backlogs in the system due to resource constraints, or that there are some cases in which patents result in minor delays in further innovation are not evidence that the system is broken. The system was designed that way--it's a balance of interests.

There is no serious contention that the patent system on the whole has not been wildly successful.

The general public is quite keen on strong legal protections of property. People feel much stronger about shoplifting than for example copyright infringement.

I don't believe that is the case. I think if you conducted a poll, you'd find that most people care very little about either, as most people are not shopowners or copyright holders.

By equating the two, you'll have an easier time convincing the public to support further enforcement of copyright and less support for the protections of fair use.

A specious argument that may be popular on Slashdot, but is based on fantasy. Intellectual property has always been property. It will always be property. It has no bearing on the actual issues involved.

Fair use is a red herring and another straw man--people respect private property ownership while also supporting tenants' rights; they respect corporate rights while also supporting consumer protection laws. People are capable of respecting intellectual property rights while supporting fair and personal use.

You can argue that property is not a natural right, but John Locke famously put it after life and liberty, and there are quite a few people that subscribe to that notion.

John Locke famously wrote about the inadequacy of the system of "nature" and the rise of society to compensate for those inadequacies. Lockean fundamental rights of citizens are not natural rights.

Many people, and the United States itself, subscribes to Locke's notions. You're just misunderstanding them.

The notion that property is not a natural right is not an argument that property is not a legal right.

The 'you wouldn't steal a car' anti-piracy campaign capitalizes on this.

Another red herring.

I said that it doesn't disappear after 20 years. I might consume, lose, break, or sell my personal property. I might hide it or I might bestow it to my heirs.

And as *I* said, most property interests disappear well before 20 years by termination of right. The term of property is a major issue in all relevant portions of the legal field: life estates, tenancies, leases, holding limits, termination of charters. The only property that is not transient in nature are chattels and fee simple estates. Even then, there are complications to that general rule.

Patents and other legal intangibles are assets, not property.

'Asset' is a term of accounting, not of law. Property is defined by law as an exclusive right, and proprietary interests in intangibles is essential to giving rise to a cause of action.

Property is a kind of asset, but not all assets are property.

You're mistaken. All assets are property. The UCC begins the definition of 'intangibles' with "all personal property..." Intangible personal property is not a new concept and has nothing to do with the RIAA; it includes securities, interests in service, interests in contract, IP, and technically, fiat currency (though for historical reasons, money is sometimes treated as quasi-tangible personalty since it was a share of gold/silver reserves).

It's accounting, not law, that separates assets from capital. Both are property at law.

Re:"intellectual property" laws:barf (1)

king neckbeard (1801738) | more than 4 years ago | (#32184236)

There is no serious contention that the patent system on the whole has not been wildly successful.

That is very difficult to prove either way. Also, I'm not talking about patents in the last 200 years, I'm talking about patents today. There are scholarly people that suggest that patents act as a x% tax outside of perhaps the pharmaceutical industry, let alone justifying the freedoms that the public sacrifices in order for patents to be enforced. However, what I am arguing for is not the need to abolish the patent system, but the needs to reform it, which I think most anyone can acknowledge.

I don't believe that is the case. I think if you conducted a poll, you'd find that most people care very little about either, as most people are not shopowners or copyright holders.

Most people have private property. If someone were to take their stuff without any consequences, they would be displeased. They may not care deeply about someone stealing small amounts of things from Wal-Mart, but personal property is quite important to them. As for patents being property, they simply are not. They are defined in different sections of law and have a fundamentally different natures. What you seem to be referring to is simply legal rights or agreements. I have a legal right to not testify against myself, but that is not property. A police officer has rights to use force when others don't, but that is not his property.

Re:"intellectual property" laws:barf (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32184796)

That is very difficult to prove either way.

No, it's not. Anything that is patentable is also protectable by trade secret. Absent the patent system, companies would have to expend additional resources on keeping the inventions secret or litigating in private law, but they would have absolute and indefinite protection.

The patent system lowers the burdens greatly as well as blunts market forces for a brief period, which is the trade for full disclosure. Of course it results in elevated consumer prices--that's the whole point. The benefit for society was never intended to be retroactive, but for future enrichment.

As for patents being property, they simply are not. They are defined in different sections of law and have a fundamentally different natures.

They're defined as property in the Constitution itself. "Exclusive right" is property.

The power to exclude defines property. It isn't a fundamentally different nature--it's an identical nature!

I have a legal right to not testify against myself, but that is not property. A police officer has rights to use force when others don't, but that is not his property.

Those are not exclusive rights. More ignorant strawmen! Human rights, including due process of law and protections of privacy underlying the Fifth Amendment, aren't exclusive. Liberty interests and delegations of sovereign power, underlying your second example, aren't exclusive, either.

Private contractual agreements do not confer proprietary interests in general, but contracts establishing proprietary interests exist--the prime example being securities, which are absolutely property.

Legal rights are not exclusive rights, but exclusive rights are legal rights. Exclusive rights form the "bundle of rights" known at law as "Property".

Re:"intellectual property" laws:barf (1)

king neckbeard (1801738) | more than 4 years ago | (#32185290)

No, it's not. Anything that is patentable is also protectable by trade secret. Absent the patent system, companies would have to expend additional resources on keeping the inventions secret or litigating in private law, but they would have absolute and indefinite protection.

Accounting for patents within a company is difficult enough, let alone the total cost and benefits to society. Some patents could be trade secrets, but some couldn't.

Liberty interests and delegations of sovereign power, underlying your second example, aren't exclusive, either.

How about the President of the United States, or other similar political positions? It certainly bestows certain exclusive rights for a limited time, as POTUS is the only person who can appoint federal judges. These rights are legal rights and they are as exclusive as they get. Some may argue that exclusive rights are what define property, but that's far from a unanimous definition.

Re:"intellectual property" laws:barf (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32189788)

How about the President of the United States, or other similar political positions? It certainly bestows certain exclusive rights for a limited time, as POTUS is the only person who can appoint federal judges.

Sovereign powers are not exclusive rights. "Exclusive right" is a term of art meaning the power to exclude others (what is known colloquially as "ownership", the generic exclusive right). Possession of a legal interest is not possession of a proprietary interest, but a proprietary interest is a legal interest.

What you're treating as 'exclusive' is the concept of exclusivity, otherwise known as a sole right, and NOT exclusive right.

Conflating them is either ignorance or deceit on your part.

Some may argue that exclusive rights are what define property, but that's far from a unanimous definition.

No, power to exclude IS THE legal definition of property.

Your attempt at handwaving around your ignorance is not going to work. There is no functional difference in the possession of securities as compared to possession of a patent as compared to possession of a lease. They're all intangible property interests. The fact that they're wildly different in character and regulation is immaterial.

Wow (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32180540)

It's like the Federal Reserve all over again.

organisation? (1)

Michael Kristopeit (1751814) | more than 4 years ago | (#32180672)

the Organisation for Zpelling?

Plan to win (3, Insightful)

xororand (860319) | more than 4 years ago | (#32180686)

1. Design crippled file system (8.3 filenames)
2. "Invent" "ingenious" fix that fixes the aforementioned flaw somewhat (long filenames)
3. Patent & license. Win.

No "???" here. Only "WTF" and where is our society heading?

Re:PLAN~1 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32181374)

4. Profit!

Atleast microsoft got the whole bussiness thing right ;)

Re:Plan to win (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 4 years ago | (#32183002)

The real WTF is that we are voluntarily use that crappy file system.
Come on. There are things like ZFS out there. Compared to those, FAT32 looks like putting a rusty old Russian pedal car next to a cybernetically enhanced supercar / interstellar space ship. ^^

Re:Plan to win (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32189510)

PORTABILITY.

FAT is never used on hard disks by anyone who has a clue nowadays but it is the defacto standard for information interchange devices (floppies, USB flash keys, SD cards, external harddrives, etc).

FAT is simple (sort of, it's also unnecessarily slow and retarded but that isn't the point) and so is supported by virtually everything out of the box without needing drivers or whatever when you plug in your USB key to someone else's computer that you don't have admin access on.

---
For the GP, the patent was apparently on DOS compatibility. Their "ingenious" solution was an algorithm that created unique 8.3 names from the long filenames. If you don't give a crap about DOS/Win3.1 support then you can just not implement that and call it a day (without paying for use of the patent).

[It's still a dumb patent, of course. How hard is it to say "take the first 3 letters after the last '.' as the 8.3 file extension then grab the first 6 characters of the long name (ignoring spaces), make them uppercase and stick a tilde (~) on the end and a number after that. Keep incrementing number until it doesn't collide and save." That's 2nd year computer science/software engineering level of sophistication, it is ridiculously obvious and should not have been granted.]

How can it happen ? (3, Interesting)

unity100 (970058) | more than 4 years ago | (#32180920)

anything that Eu does now have to be approved by the Eu parliament. If parl doesnt approve it, it cant happen.

That united patent system would transcend the EU (1)

FlorianMueller (801981) | more than 4 years ago | (#32181510)

You asked "How can it happen?" Here's why: the proposed United Patent Litigation System is based on a system of international treaties, and those would transcend the geographic boundaries of the EU.

Today that's already the case to some extent, with the European Patent Office not being an EU institution but an international organization in its own right, governed by the European Patent Convention (EPC). The EPC is a treaty that has more countries as parties to itself (the treaty) than the EU has Member States. Examples of non-EU EPC countries include (but are not limited to) Switzerland, Turkey, Norway, Monaco... but right now there's still the supremacy of EU law in the 27 EU Member States, while it's rather unclear to what extent EU law could still affect the reformed and united EU + non-EU patent and patent court system.

Where you're sort of right is that if the European Parliament wanted to block that whole reform altogether, it could theoretically do so. Since that reform is a system of five treaties, all of which are in a logical AND combination (any one fails, the whole package deal falls through), the Parliament could jettison the whole reform by just voting, for an example, against the EU law that would be needed to create a so-called Community patent, or by voting against the treaty establishing the United Patent Litigation System (for international treaties that the EU joins as a virtual country, the European Parliament's assent by a qualified majority of its members is required, so the Parliament could block by withholding that assent).

And that's exactly why the patent examiners' union wrote the letter to the European Parliament that gave rise to this slashdot story: they apparently hope that the European Parliament would use its powers to influence the content of the legislation.

No, case law doesn't apply (1)

IWannaBeAnAC (653701) | more than 4 years ago | (#32181594)

Such a central patent court could also validate software patents via caselaw (as the German Supreme Court recently did with the Microsoft FAT patent).

No, no, it isn't a general validation of software patents. The German legal system follows Civil Law, not Common Law. That is, the results of previous court cases are not binding on later cases. A subsequent court is bound only to follow statutory law, and has no obligation to take into consideration previous case law. This is quite different to the Common Law of the British tradition, where case law does indeed set a binding precent that affects later rulings.

Your Civil Law/Common Law comparison misses s.th. (2, Informative)

FlorianMueller (801981) | more than 4 years ago | (#32181700)

The German legal system follows Civil Law, not Common Law. That is, the results of previous court cases are not binding on later cases. A subsequent court is bound only to follow statutory law, and has no obligation to take into consideration previous case law.

What you don't say here is that rulings by the court that ruled on the FAT patent (the Bundesgerichtshof, which is the highest German court in all matters of civil and criminal law, above which there's only a Federal Constitutional Court, which wouldn't heart a patent case) are definitely binding, especially if a part of the ruling is defined as a "Leitsatz" ("guiding ruling"). All lower courts -- which means all courts in the country except for the aforementioned constitutional court -- have to follow those decisions. That's something you didn't mention, and it's important in this case.

Re:Your Civil Law/Common Law comparison misses s.t (1)

Elektroschock (659467) | more than 4 years ago | (#32182152)

What you are saying is, the FAT-patent can still be challenged at a Constitutional Court?

@Elektroschock: the answer is 99.99% No (1)

FlorianMueller (801981) | more than 4 years ago | (#32182236)

I had said that only the Federal Constitutional Court is above the Bundesgerichtshof, the court that ruled on the FAT patent, but I also said that the Constitutional Court doesn't hear patent cases. I had a typo in my post ("heart" instead of "hear") but the message was clear.

Very theoretically, the Constitutional Court could look into patent law if someone's fundamental rights were violated by the law. With the question of whether or not software should be patented, that's extremely hard to imagine, which is why I would say the answer to your question is 99.99% No, if not higher than that. And there certainly isn't a direct appeal mechanism in place.

Re:@Elektroschock: the answer is 99.99% No (1)

Elektroschock (659467) | more than 4 years ago | (#32182602)

Microsoft's FAT patent affects all citizens, even the consitutional court. Microsoft can threaten the court not store their judgements on hard disc because they own a patent, and if the Court countersues, refuse to license Microsoft Windows, IE, Office, Outlook to them. Then they have to learn the Linux command line interface Latex and store their documents on ReiserFS file servers.

Re:Your Civil Law/Common Law comparison misses s.t (1)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 4 years ago | (#32184510)

As I see it, a "Leitsatz"-judgement indeed technically has to be followed by lower courts, but they still can actually rule to the contrary, opening up the way to higher instances until the issue reaches the BGH again. Certain judges on certain OLGs (state courts, roughly) seem to have it made a hobby ruling against the established guidelines from the BPatG (patent court) and sometimes BGH lately in patent matters. If you follow the guidelines issued by the BGH on software patents, their opinion seems to change quite rapidly from time to time.

Eh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32186414)

"European Parliament would be 'circumvented' as a legislator."

They are no legislators today, and propably never will be, how can they be circumvented? The European parliament is just a front without real power, they have never even been claimed to have any legislative power, not even by EUs supporters. Nobody can be sure who has the real power in any given situation. The counsil of ministers seem to have some power, sometimes, but their power of vote are not democraticaly distributed. Most power seem to be in the hands of beaurocrats, those beaurocrats are however appointed by politicians, not necesserely politians elected by the people, but by politicians appointed as representatives by other politicians elected to Europes national assemblies and gouvernments (and again, the power they get is not proportional to the public support they have within the whole of Europe). Another group of people, with at least some influence, are the coordinators within the intrernational party groups within the parliament, they are at least democratically elected (but their power is, as usual, not proportional to their public support).

EU is not a democratic organisation, and propably never will be, that was not part of the original goal. Sure, some politicians claim it will be (or even that it already is, but that is obviously not true). Why would you belive anything professional politicians or beaurocrats say, they have their whole adult lifes been paid for being politicians and beaurocrats, they don't want Democracy, all they want is a pay rise and a comfy life.

Disgusting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32188664)

Looking at this, every some time we get a new threat against democracy. The corporations whom have bought or pressured politicians into giving up our rights so that politicians can get their champagne feasts and more political power. The most dangerous enemies of our democracies are not outside of our countries, its not those whom the politicians are pointing their fingers at, it is the greedy corporations and their enablers the politicians.

Where Do I Sign Up? (1)

Not_A_Jew (1363015) | more than 4 years ago | (#32188854)

A central government with no de facto legislative authority? Sounds good to me -- where do I sign up?

From California with love,

N.a.J.
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