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The Patent Office is to hold a meeting, this December, with anti-software patent activists to try to persuade them of the merits of the European directive on computer implemented inventions. Lord Sainsbury, minister for science and innovation, contacted everyone who wrote to their MP about the bill; more than 300 people, in total.

The letter reads:

I know from correspondence I have seen, that you have concerns about the proposed Computer Implemented Inventions Directive under discussion in the EU.

Given the levels of interest in this issue, I have decided to invite all the correspondents and their MP's [sic] who have written to me, to a meeting. This will give me the opportunity to explain the Government's view of the Directive, and give you an opportunity to have your questions answered.

The DTI (Department for Trade and Industry) minister may have sent out the invitations, but the event is definitely a Patent Office (UKPO) affair. Lord Sainsbury will speak at the event, but he is bracketed by two speakers from the UKPO. According to the running order, Peter Lawrence, director of policy at the UKPO, will open the session with a ten minute introductory speech. Lord Sainsbury will speak for ten minutes about the government position. Finally, Peter Hayward, the Patent Office's divisional director of patents, will deliver a 30 minute presentation on the directive. Organisers have allocated 55 minutes for questions.

The Patent Office confirmed that over 300 people have been invited, and that typically, meetings like this have a 10 per cent take-up rate. The meeting is being held in a room big enough for 120, so any Register reader who gets an invitation should RSVP as soon as possible to save a seat.

A four-page glossy brochure was included in the mail-shot, outlining the arguments attendees can expect to hear: We need the directive to clarify the position across Europe; it won't change anything, it will just clarify things, so open source will be safe. It won't hurt SMEs, in fact it'll allow them to "hold their own against big business", and so on.

You have no doubt heard these arguments before. So if you are invited to the meeting, be prepared. Ask the government why those involved in drafting the directive have been so reluctant to tighten the definitions of what can and cannot be patented. Specifically, ask them about interoperability, and "technical effect", and ask them how small companies will be able to compete with the huge patent portfolios of larger corporations.

Let us know how you get on. ®

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