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RTD info logoMagazine on European Research N° 37 - May 2003    
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 TABLE OF CONTENTS
 EDITORIAL
 Ambitions for research
 Agriculture and the life sciences: food for thought
 Fighting microbial resistance
 An anthropologist takes stock
 The Museu de la Cičncia in Barcelona
 The digital cosmos
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OPINION Printable version


At a time when European countries – or, more precisely, their governments – have shown quite deep differences on the war in Iraq, it is reassuring to see major progress on another subject on which they have been at loggerheads for many years. I am speaking of the Community patent. The uninformed, such as myself, failed to understand Europe's repeated failure in a field where it lacked neither expertise nor competence. No doubt that, apart from the legal and technical aspects (language, costs, etc.), the deadlock also had something to do with cultural roots.

In our 'old Europe', industrialists, researchers and politicians perhaps tend to regard the patent from the defensive angle only, rather like a safe in which one stashes away, for fear of burglars, the family jewels. Hence, patent applications are made rarely and reluctantly, lest the effort prove a waste of time and money.

Elsewhere, and fortunately to an increasing extent in Europe too, another more dynamic and pro-active view is growing: the patent seen as a means of guaranteeing earnings from an invention, like a rocket that launches into orbit, out of anyone's reach, the rewards to be reaped in the future.

In fact it is a move from protecting property to projecting profits.

Such images are both beautiful and edifying, and European ministers showed proof of wisdom when they decided, on 3 March, following the Commission's advice, to implement a common policy on the Community patent so as to reduce sharply the cost of registration and litigation.

But making safes less expensive is not enough to transform a Harpagon into an Icarus. It is also necessary to take steps, as did the Council of 3 March, to encourage young Europeans to take chances and create companies.

Candide

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