|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
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:
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.
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
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
For more information on the center's activities, visit its Web site
Source: Center for Information Policy, University of Maryland College
of Information Studies, College Park, MD, 301/405-2033; http://www.clis.umd.edu.