Lend an ear to the Europeans; they might be able to tell us a thing or two about reforming intellectual property laws
Maybe it's lack of trust that extends all the way back to the early days of Bell vs. Meucci. Or maybe it's just concern about a lack of international standards, but the European power community seems very intense these days when it comes to all the recent talk on patent law and how the road to reform in the U.S. will take shape. I'd be concerned, too, about putting my faith in anyone's hands—I don't even trust myself on alternate Thursdays! One thing is for sure, though: there's a bit of anxiety on the other side of the pond over some recent rulings regarding the intellectual property of a few big guns in the power business.
Their worry might have something to do with the differing philosophies of the world's countries when it comes to recognizing who owns what. I think they'd say it would be OK if everyone could get on the same page. "Forever" is a long time, but there's more than a grain of doubt when people wonder if there's ever going to be a universal approach to the mess we've got. And I sense we've had calamity for a much longer time than I've been alive.
So I certainly can't argue with their concerns. I know enough to say, though, that patent law in the U.S. is, let's just call it, peculiar. And I'm sure most everyone has that one case that sticks in their craw, something a legal defense team would generally call "allegorical." But take this allegorical case: You bring an infringement suit against a company in 10 states and win. But you get too confident, and file the suit in an 11th state, where the jury votes against you. As a result, everything that's gone before is for nothing. That's because you thus lose in all states.
I don't believe they've gotten around to fixing that one yet, or have any intention of doing so. And it's not the only case that might give you the rights to intellectual property today, and take them away tomorrow. Welcome to the world of patent law.
Most level headed people in the world want a sense of order, of even-handedness, in their everyday dealings. And it's true, I've found the Europeans to be a rather gentle, quiet lot. But that, in my view, might put them behind the eight ball when they deal with a highly charged, highly competitive industrial country like ours. On the other hand, Japan is highly competitive, too, and while it's hard to generalize on the thoughts of an entire continent I get the feeling the Europeans seem to think that Japan's system of patent law at least makes for a more workable system. Now some might say that all of Europe isn't so competitive, and needs to pound away at any angle for any advantage they can get. True as that might be, I'd counter that argument by saying that I, right here in New Jersey, never had much faith in U.S. patent law.
I'm not sure how much input the Europeans have provided, or have been asked to provide, to the world community on this issue. But whomever has what to say about their level of participation, I get the feeling it hasn't been much, and that they are watching more than bulling their way into the conversation. I do know, without doubt, they can show us a thing or two. And that our engineering community generally isn't aware but can learn from what they have to say.
So what's on Europe's mind, exactly? I don't know, exactly. Check the site in a few days, though, and ask me then. I may know a bit more.