Information Today
Volume 18, Issue 10 November 2001
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Center for Information Policy Receives Grant to Study Patent Policy

The Center for Information Policy at the University of Maryland's College of Information Studies has announced that it has received a grant from the German Marshall Fund of the United States to initiate a project on the divergence in patent policy between the U.S. and Europe with respect to software and business-method patents. The grant provides $24,750 for an exploratory meeting of experts who will consider options for coordinating policy research. Brian Kahin is principal investigator on the project.

While the European Patent Convention precludes patents on computer programs as such, the European Patent Office (EPO) has granted some 20,000 software patents, perhaps half the number granted in the U.S. Patent litigation in Europe is handled by national courts with different standards on patentable subject matter. According to the announcement, this presents a problem for the European Commission's plans to develop a unitary patent system.

Considerable resistance has emerged, especially among open source developers, to proposals to remove the computer program exclusion and validate EPO practice. The divergence on business methods is clearer, since European opinion seems to reject the kind of broad patents on business practice concepts allowed by court decision in the U.S.

According to the announcement, the meeting will help define an agenda for research in this area that will clarify the issues and highlight policy options.

The Center for Information Policy, established last year, is headquartered in the College of Information Studies but serves as a focal point for university research efforts in this field. The center does the following:

  • Investigates the technological, economic, and social phenomena associated with the digitization of information and the growth of the global Internet

  • Examines the role of information in social, economic, legal, and policy processes

  • Analyzes information policy choices in terms of changing technologies, business practices, ethics, and human behavior

  • Supports the development of effective strategies and sound policies for the management, communication, and use of information
Kahin is director of the center. He also holds affiliate faculty appointments with the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business and School of Public Affairs. Before his appointment last year, he was a senior policy analyst in the White House Office of Science and Technology. Prior to that, he was founding director of the Information Infrastructure Project at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government.

For more information on the center's activities, visit its Web site at http://cip.umd.edu.

Source: Center for Information Policy, University of Maryland College of Information Studies, College Park, MD, 301/405-2033; http://www.clis.umd.edu.

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