Ahoy there! Pirates going legit

The German Pirate Party has won 14 of the 130 available seats in the recent local parliament elections (see link). Normally the IPKat wouldn’t be reporting German elections, but the interest lies in the manifesto of the Pirate Party. These modern progressive Pirates are not interested in pillaging, plundering and keeping all the booty for themselves. Rather, they want everyone to share their ill-gotten profits: more Robin Hood than Long John Silver. Their manifesto is along the same lines as the UK Pirate Party, previously reported by the IPKat here and available here and includes the abolition of pharmaceutical patents and reduction of copyright protection to ten years. Ignoring whether the Pirate Party could make these changes (which would presumably require Germany to resign from a number of international treaties and organisations) how would Germany look if the Pirate Party gets its way?

Immediate thoughts are that no innovator pharmaceutical company would want to sell their products there, but of course this wouldn’t really matter to Germany because any generic company could set up shop and manufacture and sell their own versions. So the health of the population may not necessarily suffer, quite the reverse: the availability of cheap drugs could make Germany a go-to medical destination. Would pharmaceutical research departments and innovator companies move out of Germany? If they were still able to file for European Patents designated for other countries at the EPO then presumably there would be no mass exodus of R&D. Just a lot of healthy researchers filing GB etc designated patents.

Cultural life? Music, films and books are all easily transferred across the border on the internet and in print, so I don’t suppose the German people would lack for material being imported.

Gadgets, tools and machinery? Would Mercedes, Porsche and BMW continue to push the boundaries of automotive design and invention? The same logic as for pharmaceutical patents applies – companies could continue to be based in Germany (availing themselves of the cheap pharmaceuticals) and file non-DE designated EPs. In any event, the Pirate Party is not advocating the abolition of all patents, only threatening to roll back the “ever-growing tide of trivial, incomprehensible, overreaching patents”. They will do this by:
(1) “raising the bar on how innovative an idea has to be before it can be patented” [Merpel thought absolute novelty was already required…]
(2) “prohibiting patents on software, business methods, concepts, colours and smells.” [Good idea, says Merpel, but she is sure she’s seen rules like that before…]
(3) “We will require a working model to be provided to the patent office before a patent is granted” [Merpel thinks it will be a lucky business that wins the warehousing contract for the patent office]
(4) “we will strictly enforce the current rule that patents are invalid if they are "obvious to someone skilled in the art". [Merpel recommends revoking the patent]
(5) “We will allow more competition in the manufacture of patented devices by introducing a system of compulsory patent licensing, and we will provide exemptions to patent law for non-commercial use, personal study and academic research.” [Good idea, says Merpel, but she is sure she’s seen rules like that before…]
Interestingly, there is no talk of how the Pirate Party would handle infringement of IP rights - perhaps the easiest way to achieve their aims would be to disband the IP courts (come the revolution, the Dusseldorf court would surely be first up against the wall! See here)

So Germany might be a land of cheap generic drugs, counterfeit fashion goods, low quality electronic goods, familiar-looking restaurants serving food tasting not quite as anticipated…. hang on – I know a country like that! As China drags its IP laws and practice into the 21st century, Germany is on course to take its place.

We should note that the international Pirate Party is a moderate force in the world of anti-copyright activists, recently calling for members of Operation Payback to cease their attacks.


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