The Campaign

How much does it cost to buy a law like EPLA?

No-one knows how much a law like EPLA really costs to produce and sell. But we have some clues, and a very rough estimate of the total cost of all those breakfast meetings, conferences, studies, and reports. Democracy is, it seems, for sale.

The pro-EPLA propaganda

A major part of the EPLA preparation was the creation of a solid propaganda piece, a nice mix of truth and lies that leads the unaware reader to believe that EPLA is indeed a cure for old age, the end of oil, and a bad back. We read the propaganda piece over and over again, in reports, studies, conferences.

It goes like this:

  • Europe is falling behind in economic performance
  • Europe needs to be more innovative
  • Innovation depends on a strong intellectual property regime
  • This means we need stronger and more reliable patent system
  • Litigation in Europe's current patent system is too expensive
  • The Community Patent is the ultimate solution
  • EPLA plus the London Protocol are a good interim solution

This explanation comes back in many places. To debunk it, we can note that:

  • The US is actually falling behind in economic performance (from 1st to 6th place last year, according to the OECD)
  • Innovation depends on many things, such as taxation, market size, and fair competition
  • Intellectual property is many things, not just patents
  • The main problem with patents is not litigation, but bad patents
  • Yes, an EU patent system is a desirable goal
  • EPLA would block, not promote, an EU patent system

How much did it cost to prepare EPLA?

Something as dangerous and controversial as EPLA cannot be introduced offhandedly, especially when people are starting to question the sanity of the CAFC system. Someone is going to ask difficult questions. So, the EPO, working together with friends in the patent industry, has conducted a huge marketing campaign.

Selling EPLA is a massive and expensive project. From the outside, we can only guess at the size of the budgets involved, but they are significant. We estimate that each Euro we spend on activism is matched by a hundred Euro of commercial lobbying. The FFII spent something like Euro 1m in contributed time to understand EPLA and prepare counter-proposals. So we can estimate that about Euro 100m was spent on preparing it.

Does that sound a lot? A top lawyer or lobbyist earns Euro 1m per year.

In fact our Euro 100m estimate is possibly too low. It might be Euro 250m, or more. That does not really matter. Software patents represent a large, even majority slice of the Euro 6bn a year earned by the patent industry. The bill for the EPLA project is a small investment. And the ticket was split between the software monopolists and the EPO, and a large part was provided by the tax payer. Great value for money!

But what was the money spent on? This are the visible aspects:

  • Documentary and legal support. EPLA is a complex design that depends on some very delicate manoeuvers, such as the EU becoming a signatory of the European Patent Convention. So the EPO has spent a lot of money on preparing the legal ground work and producing web sites, reports, studies, and other materials. Most of this work was done before 2004.
  • Media events like breakfast meetings, conferences, workshops. Speakers are brought from across the world, they are lodged, fed, and assisted.
  • Public relations. This means paying professionals to get the right stories in the news.
  • Public opinion 'research'. The outcome of such "let's ask the people" programmes is always the same. The people's opinion is generally discounted and ignored, while special interests get a broad canvas on which to paint their dogma.
  • Direct lobbying. This means paying professionals to attend meetings, convince MEPs, speak in workshops, etc. Lobbyists are expensive and the EPO has teams in every major capital, but especially Brussels and Munich.

Read more

Regarding the IPR working group:

ObjectWeb, a nonprofit organization focused on open source middleware, co-coordinated the working group on innovation and participated in the working groups on ICT uptake and on IPR. However, the organization eventually requested the coordinator of this last group to remove all references to ObjectWeb from the topic paper on IPR so not to appear endorsing statements which would fail to reflect its positions in an acceptable manner.

Priorities … identified by the votes of the 600 innovation professionals who participated in the Europe INNOVA Conference 2006.

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