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Tuesday, 8 March 2011

When is a PC not PC? When it's a unified European one

Bad news for unified European patent litigators -- in Avis 1/09 Creation of a unified patent litigation system the Court of Justice of the European Union has given its verdict on the proposed Unified Patent Litigation System (UPLS) and the European and Community Patents Court (‘the PC’). Following an 89 paragraph ruling it says:
"The envisaged agreement creating a unified patent litigation system (currently called ‘European and Community Patents Court’) is not compatible with the provisions of the EU Treaty and the FEU Treaty".
Highlights of the Court's ruling, which affirms the Opinion of the Advocates General delivered by AG Kokott (noted here), include the following (shorn of most of the citiations):
"71. As regards the characteristics of the PC, it must first be observed that that court is outside the institutional and judicial framework of the European Union. It is not part of the judicial system provided for in Article 19(1) TEU. The PC is an organisation with a distinct legal personality under international law.

72. In accordance with Article 15 of the draft agreement, the PC is to be vested with exclusive jurisdiction in respect of a significant number of actions brought by individuals in the field of patents. That jurisdiction extends, in particular, to actions for actual or threatened infringements of patents, counterclaims concerning licences, actions for declarations of non‑infringement, actions for provisional and protective measures, actions or counterclaims for revocation of patents, actions for damages or compensation derived from the provisional protection conferred by a published patent application, actions relating to the use of the invention before the granting of the patent or to the right based on prior use of the patent, actions for the grant or revocation of compulsory licences in respect of Community patents, and actions for compensation for licences. To that extent, the courts of the contracting States, including the courts of the Member States, are divested of that jurisdiction and accordingly retain only those powers which are not subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the PC.

73. ... in accordance with Article 14a of the draft agreement, the PC, in carrying out its tasks, has the duty to interpret and apply European Union law. The draft agreement confers on that court the main part of the jurisdiction ratione materiae held, normally, by the national courts, to hear disputes in the Community patent field and to ensure, in that field, the full application of European Union law and the judicial protection of individual rights under that law.

74. As regards an international agreement providing for the creation of a court responsible for the interpretation of its provisions, the Court has, it is true, held that such an agreement is not, in principle, incompatible with European Union law. The competence of the European Union in the field of international relations and its capacity to conclude international agreements necessarily entail the power to submit itself to the decisions of a court which is created or designated by such agreements as regards the interpretation and application of their provisions ...

75. Moreover, the Court has stated that an international agreement concluded with third countries may confer new judicial powers on the Court provided that in so doing it does not change the essential character of the function of the Court as conceived in the EU and FEU Treaties ...

76. The Court has also declared that an international agreement may affect its own powers provided that the indispensable conditions for safeguarding the essential character of those powers are satisfied and, consequently, there is no adverse effect on the autonomy of the European Union legal order ...

77. However, the judicial systems under consideration in the abovementioned Opinions were designed, in essence, to resolve disputes on the interpretation or application of the actual provisions of the international agreements concerned. Further, while providing particular powers to the courts of third countries to refer cases to the Court for a preliminary ruling, those systems did not affect the powers of the courts and tribunals of Member States in relation to the interpretation and application of European Union law, nor the power, or indeed the obligation, of those courts and tribunals to request a preliminary ruling from the Court of Justice and the power of the Court to reply.

78. By contrast, the international court envisaged in this draft agreement is to be called upon to interpret and apply not only the provisions of that agreement but also the future regulation on the Community patent and other instruments of European Union law, in particular regulations and directives in conjunction with which that regulation would, when necessary, have to be read, namely provisions relating to other bodies of rules on intellectual property, and rules of the FEU Treaty concerning the internal market and competition law. Likewise, the PC may be called upon to determine a dispute pending before it in the light of the fundamental rights and general principles of European Union law, or even to examine the validity of an act of the European Union.

79. As regards the draft agreement submitted for the Court’s consideration, it must be observed that the PC:

– takes the place of national courts and tribunals, in the field of its exclusive jurisdiction described in Article 15 of that draft agreement,

– deprives, therefore, those courts and tribunals of the power to request preliminary rulings from the Court in that field,

– becomes, in the field of its exclusive jurisdiction, the sole court able to communicate with the Court by means of a reference for a preliminary ruling concerning the interpretation and application of European Union law and

– has the duty, within that jurisdiction, in accordance with Article 14a of that draft agreement, to interpret and apply European Union law.

80. While it is true that the Court has no jurisdiction to rule on direct actions between individuals in the field of patents, since that jurisdiction is held by the courts of the Member States, nonetheless the Member States cannot confer the jurisdiction to resolve such disputes on a court created by an international agreement which would deprive those courts of their task, as ‘ordinary’ courts within the European Union legal order, to implement European Union law and, thereby, of the power provided for in Article 267 TFEU, or, as the case may be, the obligation, to refer questions for a preliminary ruling in the field concerned.

81. The draft agreement provides for a preliminary ruling mechanism which reserves, within the scope of that agreement, the power to refer questions for a preliminary ruling to the PC while removing that power from the national courts.

82. It must be emphasised that the situation of the PC envisaged by the draft agreement would differ from that of the Benelux Court of Justice which was the subject of Case C‑337/95 Parfums Christian Dior [1997] ECR I‑6013, paragraphs 21 to 23. Since the Benelux Court is a court common to a number of Member States, situated, consequently, within the judicial system of the European Union, its decisions are subject to mechanisms capable of ensuring the full effectiveness of the rules of the European Union.

83. It should also be recalled that Article 267 TFEU, which is essential for the preservation of the Community character of the law established by the Treaties, aims to ensure that, in all circumstances, that law has the same effect in all Member States. The preliminary ruling mechanism thus established aims to avoid divergences in the interpretation of European Union law which the national courts have to apply and tends to ensure this application by making available to national judges a means of eliminating difficulties which may be occasioned by the requirement of giving European Union law its full effect within the framework of the judicial systems of the Member States. Further, the national courts have the most extensive power, or even the obligation, to make a reference to the Court if they consider that a case pending before them raises issues involving an interpretation or assessment of the validity of the provisions of European Union law and requiring a decision by them...

84. The system set up by Article 267 TFEU therefore establishes between the Court of Justice and the national courts direct cooperation as part of which the latter are closely involved in the correct application and uniform interpretation of European Union law and also in the protection of individual rights conferred by that legal order.

85. It follows from all of the foregoing that the tasks attributed to the national courts and to the Court of Justice respectively are indispensable to the preservation of the very nature of the law established by the Treaties.

86. In that regard, the Court has stated that the principle that a Member State is obliged to make good damage caused to individuals as a result of breaches of European Union law for which it is responsible applies to any case in which a Member State infringes European Union law, whichever is the authority of the Member State whose act or omission was responsible for the breach, and that principle also applies, under specific conditions, to judicial bodies ... 
87. It must be added that, where European Union law is infringed by a national court, the provisions of Articles 258 TFEU to 260 TFEU provide for the opportunity of bringing a case before the Court to obtain a declaration that the Member State concerned has failed to fulfil its obligations ..

88. It is clear that if a decision of the PC were to be in breach of European Union law, that decision could not be the subject of infringement proceedings nor could it give rise to any financial liability on the part of one or more Member States.

89. Consequently, the envisaged agreement, by conferring on an international court which is outside the institutional and judicial framework of the European Union an exclusive jurisdiction to hear a significant number of actions brought by individuals in the field of the Community patent and to interpret and apply European Union law in that field, would deprive courts of Member States of their powers in relation to the interpretation and application of European Union law and the Court of its powers to reply, by preliminary ruling, to questions referred by those courts and, consequently, would alter the essential character of the powers which the Treaties confer on the institutions of the European Union and on the Member States and which are indispensable to the preservation of the very nature of European Union law".
The IPKat considers this entirely correct and also believes that this outcome was foreseeable from the start: aiming to get the UPLS accepted within the current EU framework was a bit like aiming a Mini at a brick wall and driving at it at full speed in the hope of finding a gap in it.  Merpel's still not clear who exactly wanted the new system anyway, apart from the Commission, since everyone seemed to have different reservations to it.

14 comments:

TMS said...

I am pleased they have come to this conclusion in agreement with the Advcates General. There were too many people (IP professionals) who seemed to believe that the law should be manipulated to give a specific desired outcome.

Leo Steenbeek said...

In sum, I would believe that notwithstanding the Court's negative conclusion, there is sufficient room left to move on.

The CJ’s opinion does not at all follow the leaked opinion of the Advocates-General.

The CJ appears opposed to the very idea of allowing an international court to rule on matters of EU law, see the concluding paragraph:

89. Consequently, the envisaged agreement, by conferring on an international court which is outside the institutional and judicial framework of the European Union an exclusive jurisdiction to hear a significant number of actions brought by individuals in the field of the Community patent and to interpret and apply European Union law in that field, would deprive courts of Member States of their powers in relation to the interpretation and application of European Union law and the Court of its powers to reply, by preliminary ruling, to questions referred by those courts and, consequently, would alter the essential character of the powers which the Treaties confer on the institutions of the European Union and on the Member States and which are indispensable to the preservation of the very nature of European Union law.


Importantly, it appears that a court common to EU states only (so excluding the 11 EPC states that are not EU states) is possible, see:

82. It must be emphasised that the situation of the PC (= patents court) envisaged by the draft agreement would differ from that of the Benelux Court of Justice which was the subject of Case C 337/95 Parfums Christian Dior [1997] ECR I 6013, paragraphs 21 to 23. Since the Benelux Court is a court common to a number of Member States, situated, consequently, within the judicial system of the European Union, its decisions are subject to mechanisms capable of ensuring the full effectiveness of the rules of the European Union.


In view of the above, it seems possible to move on, although the details are not yet clear.
For example, if we are talking about an “agreement”, who should be the Union’s counterparty now that the agreement belongs to the exclusive Union competence in view of Article 3(2) TFEU and the overlap of the agreement with existing EU legislation?

Would it be possible to establish the EU patent litigation system by means of a regulation, e.g. a regulation adopted under Article 114 TFEU by means of which the national systems of EP patent enforcement are harmonized into an EU system of EP patent enforcement?

The Court’s opinion has the consequence that the EU Patent Regulation cannot be extended to the other EEA states (deviating from what was agreed in the EEA Agreement as to the Community Patent Convention, in line with which on the previous regulation drafts the indication “text with EEA relevance” was placed), as it will not be possible to have a patent court for all EEA states.

Jason Burwell said...

While the patent court ('PC') itself, as proposed, appears to be killed by the ECoJ opinion, I don't think this is the ECoJ saying anything like 'we want to be in charge of this'. I think the ECoJ has burnt its fingers with TM's and, in effect, doesn't want to see the details of patent cases AT ALL... so, my hope is that there may be other routes open to try...

Here follows two thoughts, does anyone have any others? :


FIRST THOUGHT
Noting §59. of the opinion, which states: "It should be made clear...concerns not the powers of the PC in the field of the European patent, but its powers relating to the future Community patent"

and noting that what the ECoJ seems to want to reserve is that requests for ECoJ preliminary rulings must still go via national courts (§80 of ECoJ opinion)


Wouldn't there be scope for doing something EPLA-like & based squarely on European (i.e. not 'Community') patents, but with a right of appeal, for EU-nationals only(?) to their national courts on EU-treaty-interpretation-related issues?





SECOND THOUGHT
In the alternative, the profession or the EPO (maybe collaborating with patent judges around Europe - e.g. those from EPO judges symposia) might look to form an extra-judicial resource/institution/venture for providing professional mediation services for multi-jurisdictional cases - to offer litigants a cheaper/quicker (trusted) way forward towards commercial resolution - noting the well-proven & -researched track record of mediation 'working' in 75%+ of disputes that use it.



Jason Burwell
European Patent Attorney

Anonymous said...

Drop the first E in the EEUPC (which had no business there, anyway, to be quite frank), give a right to appeal to the CJEU, and go on.

Steve Peers said...

The Court follows the AGs' opinion, but only in the result; the reasoning is totally different, and unlike the AGs' opinion, it seems to me that the litigation agreement is dead in its current form, whereas it could have been saved by some tweaking if the reasoning in the AGs' opinion had been followed.

As to the way forward, I don't think a (lack of a) right of appeal to the Court of Justice is really the issue that the Court of Justice was concerned about. Rather the problem is giving an international court the power to rule on EU legislation, even if qualified by the capacity to refer questions to the Court of Justice (the Court's reasoning doesn't convince me, but let's move on).

As for Jason Burwell's first suggestion, this seems to revive the idea of the EPLA, which got shot down a few years back on the basis that MS signing up to it would infringe the EU's external competence. Just because the Court did not rule on this point today, does not mean that the Court gave this idea the green light. The infringement of the EU's external competence by an EPLA scheme would be even more manifest if the EU goes ahead with creating a unitary patent among most MS, as seems likely despite today's judgment. Then we would not just be talking about EU-treaty issues like free movement and competition law. If the system applied to the unitary patent, it would be subject to the same objections that the Court made today; and if it did not, then it would have the bizarre result that the patent litigation costs would be reduced for 'classic' European patents, but not for the EU's unitary patent. Either way there would be legal challenges from the Commission, which I expect would be successful.

I think there are two viable ways forward (assuming that MS do not want to confer jurisdiction upon a new EU patents court pursuant to Article 262 TFEU): a) an agreement among a group of EU Member States only that creates a joint patent litigation court fully integrated into national legal systems, ie like the Benelux court which the Court of Justice has no problem with; or b)an agreement based on Art. 114 or (better) Art. 118(1) TFEU (the decision-making process is the same) which creates such a common court. The problem with the latter approach is that a) there would have to be another authorization of enhanced cooperation, with another legal challenge likely if it were approved, and the legal issues here would be different - ie there would presumably be higher litigation costs in Spanish and Italian courts; and b) it is arguable that the EU Treaties do not confer the legal power to require MS to create a common court, leaving aside the EU's own court system.

Also - I wonder to what extent the patent litigation issue can be addressed by means of the current reform of the Brussels Regulation rules - which will presumably be extended the EEA states (and the Swiss) by means of another amendment to the Lugano Convention. Presumably the Brussels Reg cannot be amended in order to create a common patent court as such (although surely it would have to amended to take account of such a court, if it were created? This could be another enhanced cooperation issue...) but this could be a route to address some of the litigation issues.

Meldrew said...

Many questions, some serious, some facetious: see if you can work out which is which:-

Does anyone want an EU Patent without an EU Court?

Are we all happy with the thought of a Europe wide right being litigated before national courts with the power to grant EU-wide injunctions?

If not, why do we tolerate the CTM?

If an EU patent is not to be achieved is there the possibility of granting courts extra-territorial jurisdiction with respect to European patents so that courts in one country where an EP patent is in force can grant injunctions in other countries where an EP patent is in force?

Should the law on indirect infringement be amended to cover the situation where the direct infringement will take place in another EU [or EEA] territory?

Will an EU patent come into force:-
a) in your lifetime
b) in your children's lifetime
c) when thermal underwear is on sale in Hades?

Jason Burwell said...

EU patent?
our survey said: (c) - once hell hath frozen over, long johns will be de rigeur :o)

BUT…

getting to a single European patlit jurisdiction is, and always has been (imho), something of much more strategic, commercial importance for Europeans than the EU-legal/political/academic back-flips of providing for an EU patent.
This matter should not be treated as if it might just 'go away' - especially now when getting innovative firms collaborating to produce real wealth growth in Europe is of extreme importance in these recession-ridden times - noting that part of collaborating on tech development and new product launches is knowing where one stands on ownership of arising revenues with enough commercial certainty to be able to make real-world investment, production and marketing choices and decisions.


With all due respect to Professor Peers' points, it seems to me that:

- There is nothing 'bizarre' in aiming to pragmatically reduce patlit-related transaction costs to Europe's businesses (and, possibly more importantly and concretely, in aiming to increase the speed with which they can get to sufficient commercial certainty) for the current, functioning European patent system, while, as a sideshow, happening not to improve a system which does not 'yet' exist - despite getting on for 60-years-worth of related discussions!

- The EPLA proposals were not 'shot down' or 'bagged' by anyone, but rather they were 'put back in the stables' for reasons of prudence until 'the weekend shooting party retired back to the country house to discuss other issues and travel back to the city';
- EPLA has been 'held on ice' while the EU-politics-and-law-community has gone about deciding whether to set up its own EU-only court system (à la A. 262 TFEU)
- EPLA remains available as an essentially 'ready-to-go solution' for the current, functioning European patent system

It should not be beyond the wit of man to oblige an EPLA-like Patent Court:
(a) to refer specified matters to which some element of the acquis communautaire may apply to national courts for decision; and
(b) to provide EU-national-parties with a route of appeal to their national court on issues they feel may be related to EU-law;
in both cases, thereby providing the desired route to the CJEU, at the national court's discretion / obligation. In fact, this may, in practical terms, be rendered fairly easy by the fact that the judges of the EPLA-PC would be, in essence, drawn from the current pool of skilled, national patent judges

- None of Professor Peers' proposed 'viable' routes lead to any change in the status quo in the even vaguely foreseeable future, from business' point of view - how many enhanced coop's are achievable within a decade? and/or how many concurrent treaty and regulation renegotiations?!

- However, I wholeheartedly agree with Professor Peers, that any chance of forming a court under Art. 262 TFEU is, in practical terms, now "dead" and furthermore (contrary to Steve) that any 'shooting down'-type 'external competence' arguments must be seen as having died with it.
- Indeed, the CJEU (ECoJ) opinion (§61) explicitly points out that Article 262 TFEU "cannot preclude the creation of the PC" and that "the procedure described in that article is not the only conceivable way of creating a unified patent court".
- that light is definitely flashing amber, if not yet fully green… (i.e. waiting for the pedestrians to move themselves out of the way?)


P.S. anonymous' point above is wholly correct and forms the one option… however, the other (parallel) option remains: to drop the EU from EEUPC (which has no business there anyway, if we must be frank) - 'Oh, you tak' the high road and I'll tak' the low road and…'

P.P.S. maybe the 'EU patent' should now, more properly be referred to as the 'co-op patent'?

Anonymous said...

Mr. Burwell,

I'm afraid you're being quite politically naive. The driving force behind the whole unification process has always been the European Commission. If you drop the EU from the EEUPC, you take the whole momentum away from the process. Without the Commission egging them on, the individual countries have about the same proclivity to work together as a bagful of cats.

I know that a lot of people would like to leave the EU entirely out of this, but it's quite delusional: the unified patent system will be EU-based or won't be. Even if it was possible to build some insanely complex EPLA-like arrangement with proper mechanisms for referral to national and even EU courts, I don't see why this shouldn't be easier within the EU framework. If your concern is about the qualifications of the judges of an EU Patent Court, this is, frankly speaking, strictly a staffing problem, which moreover will be more easily addressed by the EU than by an intergovernmental arrangement, which typically would be obliged to take judges from all participating countries, regardless of their actual qualifications.

Jason Burwell said...

Dear Ms./Mr. Anonymous(2),

Thank you for taking the time to read and reply.

My fear is that such politically-cynical opinions might cause nothing useful to change at all and might even be subconsciously intended to do so*.

After all, the following all successfully came to exist and function through multilateral intergovernmental negotiation - without EU 'momentum'...

the EPC (& EPO), EPC2000, the London Agreement, the PCT, the Madrid system, the Hague system, the Lisbon system...

(noting, in passing, that none of these are as 'insanely complex' as the EU-momentum/inertia-backed CTM system)

* As to personal fears (even if yours above comes across to me as rather condescending, rhetorical and ad hominum), I'm afraid that such abject cynicism might, in part, be driven by a simple fear of the personal (or caste) implications of legislative innovation in this area (i.e. by a desire for a continuation of the status quo with its economic and power-political implications for certain professionals) - as opposed to being sincerely driven by a desire to make Europe a better, even more technologically innovative and successful place to live, work and be.

Anonymous said...

Managing innovation is all about successfully herding cats...

Anonymous said...

Mr. Burwell,

I don't quite understand what you mean by personal (or caste) implications. I'm personally very much in favour of bringing the European patent system together and as annoyed by the interested defenders of the status quo as anybody else. But this is just why I can't understand why some are so afraid of letting the EU play a role in this and prefer the opaque intergovernmental route, EU Treaties be damned.
I don't see either why noting the political aspect is "cynical". Politics is the expression of public opinion, and anybody who has followed the European Parliament's debates on this matter, read the declarations of FFII or Eurolinux, or even some comments in this blog, can recognise that there's a serious public concern that an EPLA-like court would be "out of control". I don't think this concern is justified, but the enemies of the patent system are waiting for the opportunity to argue that such a court would be unfairly biaised in favour of patentees and the patent profession and against the public interest.
Keeping the European patent jurisdiction within the EU system, under proper oversight by the national courts and the CJEU, even if it may seem inconvenient to us specialists, will be the only way of conferring it the proper legitimacy in the eyes of public opinion. Pretending otherwise is a sign of just that arrogance that may be interpreted as indicating a vested interest.

Mr. Burwell said...

Dear Mr. Anonymous(2),

To me, timing is everything.

I want to see the success of innovation in Europe and am fully ambivalent as to whether this is supported via the EU or not.

Having said that, I am sick of the situation that nothing changes - despite a long-standing screaming need for it to do so.

I imagine that the fundamental lack of progress on European patent law between the 1950's and the very early 1970's may have played a role in providing the spark that created the EPC/EPO through the 1970's (along with the fact that it looked like the PCT was going to happen before the Community could agree on anything).

Far from arrogance, the EPLA-related activists - whose mandate arose squarely from the chosen representatives of directly-elected national governments at a 1999 intergovernmental conference and of whom I regret I was not one at the time - have shown great humility in effectively stopping all activity in reaction to those who, it seems, set out explicitly to destroy the fruits of their efforts and, subsequently have genuinely 'gotten on board' with trying to make the EU-route work - presumably in the desperate hope that something would 'come to be' sooner rather than later.

I think EVERYONE at least acknowledges that the current inability for businesses to reach sufficient commercial certainty within anything like a reasonable timeframe for making commercial decisions on innovation investments is a serious flaw for economic growth in Europe (vs., for example, the US). There are large international companies actively PULLING THEIR R&D RESOURCES OUT OF EUROPE while these deck chairs on the Titanic are all being rearranged. But still the same old themes are redebated and redebated. Now we're set on a route to make getting a coop patent cheaper, but still having to go to national courts to enforce them and still having to go to an EP patent for non-EU states (and IT and ES) and still having to wait on the drafting of something altogether different for the CJEU to mull over for a while - that's even assuming that Diego was wrong when he said that the enhanced coop will be a 'Chronicle of a death foretold' (à la Gabriel García Márquez) and that ES and IT are effectively going to look to legally derail things if they can and that the UK may even be considering withdrawing.

As to 'out of control'... it is not the case that all Europeans (notably, for instance, those Europeans whose countries are not member states of the EU) see the EU as, itself, having a mandate to control all aspects of their lives. National governments are still generally felt to be more democratically accountable than EU and, if those governments' executives can multilaterally agree on something that helps to support growth in Europe, then I would see that as a Good Thing - whether those whose lives rotate exclusively around the EU-institutions like it or not.

Please don't misunderstand me - the EU has been and is a Great Thing for Europe and I am a great admirer of what has been achieved. I would also love the 'EU-route' to work and would have been overjoyed to have seen a different CJEU opinion. I just wonder whether - given that the CJEU opinion is what it is - speed of progress might now be higher via a less EU-centric route (while continuing to work on and support an ultimate aim, since the 1950's, of the EU agreeing something workable on patents).

Just to clarify: it is the political opinions you express that are, for me, cynical, not your noting of them.

I don't care who does it, I just care that it gets done.

To me timing is everything.

Jason Burwell said...

P.S. As to the open source software community you mention (incl. FFII, Eurolinux etc.), they have a point, that is relevant whichever route is taken on patent jurisdiction (EU or EPLA or...). Dealing with ownership aspects of open source in an industrial setting is, I know from practical experience, not without its own (extreme) legal and commercial complications. The idea that commercial companies are going to put huge amounts of resources into innovation with no prospect of a return is completely naive and, as open source software (and open innovation) evolve, this will change the landscape of what happens, how and why. I have no problem with that and I watch and follow the space with interest and even support it where I can. Nonetheless, this is, with due respect to all concerned, a sideshow with respect to providing innovating companies with an ability to find out whether or not they're likely to be able to get a return from markets across Europe on their brave investments-in-innovation-and-ownership-rights.
For me, it is anathema and irrelevant to argue, as you appear to, that because 'some (vocal) people think patents shouldn't exist' therefore, we should accept that we continue to live with a flawed patent system. Heck, if most people believe patents are per se evil things, then the EU should be illegalising patents, not pursuing an EU patent.

Jason Burwell said...

... and finally (now that I'm alone here?!)...

I REALLY don't understand what you mean by 'politics is the expression of public opinion...'

that's not what it meant anywhere I've ever been

'politics is the art of the possible' - that seems more 'real world' to me - though I imagine there may well be some more cynical definitions (would love to hear some if anyone were still out there)

signing off...

until the next generation comes along to get excited again about something useful potentially happening :o)

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