"While the IP world keeps its focus on the implications of the US budgetary crisis on the IP system (see eg Katposts here and here), another country, certainly smaller in size yet still of importance in world politics -- Austria -- has also seen important political changes. At the end of September Austria went to polls. The single biggest winner of the elections to Parliament was the FPO, the Freedom Party of Austria, which Wikipedia cites as a ‘right wing populist party’.This weblog has numerous readers from Austria, including private practitioners and students. It would be good to learn what they feel about their office: is it in need of improvement and an overhaul, or is okay as far as it goes? Do let us know!
While most Austrians expect the new Government to be the old one again, namely a ‘big coalition’ between the country’s socialist party, SPOE, and the conservatives, OEVP, the results of the elections give reason to ask some questions on its implications for the country’s IP system.
IP in Austria suffers from a lack of awareness. Obviously, IP was not a vote winner for any of the parties, except for the Pirate Party. So far, Austria does not have a National IP Strategy, its overarching innovation strategy is not linked to IP, there is no IP-focused economist in the country and the important role that IP plays for business is primarily touched upon by one subunit of a semi-government agency. The President of the Austrian Patent Office, Friedrich Roedler is said to be close to the FPO, the party once headed by Joerg Haider. Mr Roedler, who presented himself as a FPO candidate to the municipal elections of the city of Vienna in 2005, has been running the Austrian Patent Office since 2005. Without wishing to delve deeper into the variety of issues that emerged under his leadership (an explanation of the range of litigation and counter-litigation before the courts is beyond the scope of this note), I did take an interest in the performance of the Austrian Patent Office (APO). In that context the study of Oxfirst, a boutique consultancy specialized in IP, reveals interesting insights. The Oxfirst study, which is free to download on the website of the Austrian Council for Research and Technology Development, compared the performance of the Austrian Patent Office with that of the UK Intellectual Property Office, the Danish and German Patent Offices.
Here are some of the main findings:
• The financial position of the Austrian Patent Office is in a critical condition. This stands in contrast with the excellent financial performance of the UK, Danish and German Patent Offices.Against the results of recent elections, one wonders to what extent we will see any of the much-needed changes in Austria’s IP system. After all, it lies in the nature of politics to be political. But then again, public policy that ignores the important implications of IP on national prosperity is public policy that deprives the public of the means to generate wealth and create jobs in the knowledge economy".
• Contrary to its counterparts in Denmark, the U.K. and Germany, the APO scarcely commits itself to IP Outreach Programmes that would help business, academia or individual inventors to grasp the economic role of IP.
• Substantive patent examination in the APO is hampered by inadequate access to databases. This may have an impact on patent quality.
Unlike France for example, the APO has been reluctant to outsource substantive examination to the EPO.