Green patents in 9 months, digital copyright love-ins and a big hand for the Ethiopian coffee farmers

The IPKat was invited to attend a World Intellectual Property Day reception this afternoon, hosted by the British Minister for Intellectual Property David Lammy MP (right, on this occasion, anyway ...). The venue was the "Wallace and Gromit's World of Cracking Ideas" exhibition at the Science Museum, in London's rather lovely 19th century Kensington culture campus. Although he dislikes canapés, loathes Wallace and Gromit, prefers a decent Scotch to the usual wines on offer and isn't always too keen on the IP establishment, the Kat betook himself to this official merriment and was not disappointed.

The Minister took as the first theme for his address the need to look at intellectual property, particularly, from the perspective of the consumer. The government, he affirmed, did not want to tell people that they couldn't do the things they liked, which seems to apply to almost everything that involves copyright. 

Left: Urged to do so by the Minister, SABIP supremo Joly Dixon enjoys a glass of vino before the midnight price rise announced in today's budget

While copyright had been "rightly" in "the hands of professionals" for a very long time, the time had come to develop a copyright strategy based on a "shared consensus" which would result from a proper debate [the forum for this debate is a brand new microsite, to be launched in May].  This involved "trying to reach the hard-to-reach" -- though it wasn't immediately clear whether the hard-to-reach were consumers with iPods stuck in their ears or copyright collecting societies, imprisoned by the antique notion that somehow their members might just be entitled to some money.  

Pausing for a moment to reflect that Wallace and Gromit (right) were "a huge and important export, linked with something that has been with us a long time -- intellectual property", the Minister then turned to the need to encourage small businesses to make more use of their IP since "all businesses own IP in one form or another". He rightly praised the Intellectual Property Office's online IP healthkit tool (reviewed by this blog here), before addressing the need to overhaul the global IP system ("it has done well but needs replacing").  Global IP needs a "flexible framework" in order to accommodate open innovation [that's funny, says Merpel, I'm sure that the current system has proved sufficiently flexible to enable the development of open innovation, open source, Creative Commons, Wikinomics ...].  The current international system was "designed for another era but needs replacing".  We Brits, through our leadership of the European Union, are poised to bring this about.

The Minister then identified a number of targets at which Her Majesty's Government was taking aim.  Climate change was to be halted by a commitment to the deployment of the patent system as a means of incentivising the growth of green and low-carbon technologies. 

Left: an enraptured audience of IP cognoscenti listen to the Minister's speech

Green patents would be granted within 9 months of application [listen quietly at this point and you'll be able to hear the sound of European Patent Office examiners choking on their Bratwurst while they read this].  The world backlog of 7 million unexamined patent applications would then be eliminated [the IPKat invites readers to comment on this statistic], and a meeting would be arranged with the to-be-appointed US Intellectual Property Czar, through whom meaningful exchanges of information and official activities would be channelled. 

More was yet to come. Mutual recognition of examination results and other forms of cooperation with foreign patent offices was endorsed, with special mention being made of the "ground breaking" deal struck with the Chinese. 

Right: prolific and outspoken wind-up expert Trevor Bayliss enjoys a drink with Peter Prowse (CIPA). The IPKat was alarmed to find Trevor in a museum, but reassured when he discovered that the iconic inventor was a guest, not an exhibit.

The developing world too was entitled to support and respect for IP, which could be delivered though using IP as a means of furnish "access to quality medicines" and by helping Ethiopian coffee farmers develop an IP-based business model for the promotion of their crops.

The IPKat has been promised an electronic copy of the official version of David Lammy's speech, which he will make available to readers of the blog.  In the meantime, he is pleased to report that he thought that the Minister put on a pretty good show.  Approachable, lucid and apparently genuinely interested in the issues raised by intellectual property, he even made quite a good job of listening to others. While still quite sceptical with regard to a good deal of the content of the Minister's speech, the Kat is inclined to rate him as a long-term asset and not as a liability.  With a first-rate Intellectual Property Office behind him, he may be able to achieve some real improvements.
Green patents in 9 months, digital copyright love-ins and a big hand for the Ethiopian coffee farmers Green patents in 9 months, digital copyright love-ins and a big hand for the Ethiopian coffee farmers Reviewed by Jeremy on Wednesday, April 22, 2009 Rating: 5


  1. Thanks for the summary. I'm excited about the prospect of the UK including the people in this "share consensus" (even if it does probably make the answer I gave on an exam today utterly wrong). Hopefully, the US will be next.

    As for the US IP Czar - if Obama ever does decide to appoint one - it's unlikely the Czar would be interested in meaningful exchanges than involve anything other than tightening protections, based on the IP people Obama's appointed so far.

    (p.s. Merpel, right there with you on the flexibility comment)

  2. He may be able to deliver some real improvements, but he only has 12 months in which to do it. Quite a tough call.

  3. EPO examiners "choking on their bratwurst"? Not in The Hague... And not all examiners are German...

  4. Hey! Bratwurst isn't only eaten by Germans. We eat it often in Milwaukee. (course, Milwaukee was settled by a lot of Germans... but, the Polish decedents there eat it too.)

  5. I believe that bratwurst is available even in the Hague (, just as spaghetti is available even in London. And since when has the consumption of bratwurst been limited to Germans? Just as well you're anonymous.

    I do hope you're not an EPO examiner ...

  6. The matter of the 7 million unexamined patent applications is an interesting one. Many of these relate to patent families, i.e. applications claiming a common priority and relating to the same invention, which are pending before several different offices (USPTO, JPO, EPO, APTO, Eurasian PTO etc). It would be interesting to know how many of these 7 million pending applications belong to patent families, in addition to overall numbers of individual applications. It would also be interesting to have a breakdown of how many applications are pending before different offices and how many relate to continuations (CIP) and divisional applications.

    As for bratwurst, actually in Munich you are far more likely to eat the local "Weisswurst". In the Netherlands, you are highly unlikely to eat either, the local "pannekoeken" or "poffertjes" (popular at children's parties) or for the grown-ups "Fricandel" (Dutch sausage) or something more exotic such as Indonesian fare such as the ubiquitous "saté", which has become as Dutch as curry has become British.

  7. Minister says: seeks to 'develop a copyright strategy based on a "shared consensus" which would result from a proper debate'.

    Minister does: strictly behind closed doors creation of ACTA treaty; releases of negotiation drafts described as "threats to national security".

    In other news: UK copyright law assessed as least consumer-friendly "by far" in survey of 16 countries by Consumer International, due to difficulty of fair use.

  8. "Green patents would be granted within 9 months of application."

    Yes, and I just saw a pig fly past my window.

    Of course, there's nothing which would prevent patents from being granted within an even shorter period...provided that they're granted without examination as to their validity. or are they going to do away with the 18-month period before publication too? Few patent applicants will be happy about that...

    For first filings, the EPO provides a prior art search and written opinion usually within six months. Something which, if you come to think of it, is quite an achievement. If the patent application is directly ready for grant (which usually isn't the case, especially if the drafter has done a good job of avoiding overly narrow claims), then it could, in theory, be granted there and then...except that, since there may be unpublished conflicting patent applications, this can't be done reliably until at least 18 months after the priority date.

    Also, what distinguishes a "green" patent from a "polluting" one? Do they smell differently? Is a patent on a pest-resistant GM crop "green" or "brown"?

    In short, ignorance, demagoguery and wishful thinking at its worst. When one consider that these are the same people predicting the end of the economic crisis within short, it's a terrifying feeling indeed.

  9. Why does IPKat loathe Wallace & Gromit? I've always thought they were rather good! (Is IPkat afraid of Gromit the IPDog?)

  10. Jeremy,
    You're link leads to eating bratwurst in Munich. I can see you're no EPO examiner either!
    Re. spaghetti in London - yes but I'll let you convince an Italian that it's really "Italian".
    Since I've eaten (very good) sushi in Mumbai and Buenos Aires, I'll feel free in future to refer to Indians and/or Argentinians choking on their sushi. No, it doesn't quite ring true...
    P.S. Weisswurst? Yes, but only on a Wednesday morning and with weissbier (Yuck!)

  11. Having read the text of the speech helpfully provided, I note that the Minister referred to "several million" and not "seven million"...

  12. No: the text reads "several", but the Minister said "seven". There should be no shortage of witnesses!

  13. Could someone explain how the rapid granting of "green" patents will benefit the environment, preventing others from using the technology. Perhaps the EPO will see fit to start examining my nuclear power applications which have been dormant for many years now.

  14. Has nobody else noticed the inconsistency between the aspiration of granting 'green' patents in double quick time with the vaguely threatening noises coming from various places, including the EPO president, about compulsory licensing of such patents for the public good?


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