back to article Scaled-down EU patent system moves a step closer to approval

A committee of the European Parliament has approved plans to create a 12-country patent system in Europe as countries including the UK seek to break a decades-old deadlock on whether patents should be translated, and, if so, how this should be done. The whole Parliament will vote on the plans next month, after which the …


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Anonymous Coward

Software patents and the EU

"The European Patent Office (EPO) is continuing to grant thousands of patents on “computer-implemented” algorithms and business methods every year, against the letter and spirit of the written law, and its supporters have been lobbying for decades to legitimate this practise and impose it on reticent national courts"



Patents are bad at the best of times.

These proposals will shift costs from those who want to file patents to those who need to understand them (to avoid infringement). Great for lawyers and large corporations, bad for everyone else.

It would be bad enough if they'd standardised on English. Now people across the 12 countries will have to cope with French and German as well.


Better than 27 languages if you ask me

3 languages is better than 27

It is still not good enough. I know I will get shouted down but English is a bad choice.

Way too much things depend on context. It is of course not the worst with Russian and slavic languages being the undisputed leaders on having more than 3-4 meanings in the same written phrase.

French is probably even worse. I am not good enough with German to judge, but from what I know it is probably better for "nailing things down so it is exactly what it says on the tin" than English.

If we use a common language for patents I would rather have us use Spanish. If we are talking a global dimension - Sanscrit or one one of the dead languages would be even better. A lot of them do not tolerate any "double meanings" whatsoever.


Re: Better than 27 languages if you ask me

The problem with patents, particularly in the computing domain (apart from the fact that they are unethical and unjustified), is the way that any supposedly "inventive" claim (which is usually something already being done) is cushioned in a bunch of distracting caveats and random observations as to obfuscate the prior art and make the authors look like wizards. Were these people forced to actually codify their "invention" in a formal language, it would require them to shit or get off the pot - where the pot is the only one in town and one they seek to sit on forever as its monopoly keeper.

However, by actually writing a formal description of their "invention" they'd be required to deliver a working demonstration of it, and I doubt that most patent authors would either be happy or able to manage that.


English is probably the best tbh

A dead language is a pretty crazy idea because it will have no words to handle any modern technology. Try to talk about mobile computing devices, or any other new technology in a dead language and you will quickly run into double meanings as you try and misuse words to mean the new technologies. Unfortunately, because of a serious lack of available words, most dead languages have huge numbers of double meanings. Take astra for instance in latin, it can be taken to mean stars or constellations, but also sky.

German is a pretty good language for technical documents because of its grammatical accuracy. English lacks the grammatical accuracy but has one huge advantage. The number of words available in English. With something like 600000 words in the OED, and some sources claiming that English has in excess of 1 million words, it has a richness not found in other languages. This is particularly useful in new fields like computing where new words are often created in English which don't exist in other languages to the extent that when talking about a particular concept in another language you end up falling back on the English word.



Just publish them in Esperanto. It's no-one's natural language, so should be acceptable to everyone. It's also fairly unambiguous, and so should suit the job in hand.

It would be nice to think that in this century, a better system than patents could be devised. Until that point though, using Esperanto as a meta-language is surely the best compromise?


Noooo - law of unintended consequences

you will reduce the target for americanisation of the EU system, all but impossible today, but with all their resources concentrated onto one target, who knows? Do we really want to be paying americans for completely obvious inventions marketed in the EU?

Do we have any guarantees that the EU system, with its requirement for non-obviousness and non-disclosure prior to grant, will not be undermined in order to bring the two systems "into line"?

Oh, and for language, English is a really bad choice, there is hardly a sentence you can write that does not have two or more twisted but valid alternative constructions that can be placed upon it. German would seem the best choice to me, but try getting that past the French...


Software patents included, like in US

Translating patents isn't an real issue at all, real issue is software and "business methods" patents that Commission wants because big money paying Commission wants them.

I'm 100% sure both are included in this "proposition". Under cover, of course.

Silver badge

Just skip all the software patens

And demand that any patent has a real working implementation.

And accept a EU patent in any major EU language as good enough.

IBM a long time ago came to the conclusion that Finnish was the (by far) most suitable language for computers as it is precise and has hardly no exceptions to its grammar.

In other words it is not the language but the number of people who command it (at least to some extent) that matters.

English is good enough for me although it is not my native language.

But the real problem is that patents are still, sort of, thought to be new inventions.

Think diesel, fridge, and so on, real inventions.

To day anything scribbled on a paper goes.

All that rubbish is, of course, OK as long as the money is moving into the right pockets.

And of course this is situation that makes all the patent lawyers happy (rich) as hell.

Also it seems to make big corporations happy as it will help them to keep any competition

from upstarts at bay.


Suitable languages

My vote would go for German, since it is more precise and the structure isn't undergoing radical shifts, unlike English. English has a massive vocabulary to make up for the continuing collapse of a viable grammatical structure - just think of the changing, ambiguous use of "may" and "might" in print. This would be exploited by lawyers following the established practice in English legal systems (as opposed to Roman/Dutch ones) of lawyers cavilling and quibbling over the phrasing of laws ('distinguishing') instead of deriving decisions from first principles.

German has two other distinct advantages: it is the most widely spoken language in Europe, and it has a highly developed scientific terminology.

It is worth remembering that, since the UK doesn't invest to any significant degree in science, more and more European scientific papers are produced in US English, which would seem culturally inappropriate for defining concepts in a European context.

Oh, and the German Purity Laws are well worth observing: so I'll drink to it.

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