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EU ICT Task Force Report Runs Into Criticism

by Ulrika Lomas, for, Brussels

01 December 2006

Parts of a report adopted this week by the European Commission’s Task Force on ICT dealing with the industry's competitiveness have run into opposition over software patents from the lobby group Foundation for a Free Internet Infrastructure.

The report concludes that a strong priority for interoperability on all fronts is necessary to increase the competitiveness of the European information and communication industries. The report recommends a strong focus on developing digital and entrepreneurial skills, strengthening the internal market, reducing patent costs, and the promotion of lead markets through public procurement.

The Commission will follow up the ICT Task Force's recommendations in 2007 with proposals for specific actions, such as designing a long-term eSkills strategy and promoting interoperability.

Vice-President Günter Verheugen, responsible for Enterprise and Industrial Policy, said: “The Task Force has delivered a clear picture of where effort should be concentrated to boost the competitiveness of the ICT sector, which is the backbone of innovation and growth. Giving a priority to interoperability is of the greatest importance to make the sector more viable in the long term and to be of service to the entire European business world. In particular, SMEs will profit from an enhanced uptake of ICTs."

As regards intellectual property, the report's conclusions were: "Given the diversity of IPR models in the ICT sector, wide consultation should take place before changing EU legislation. Also, limit criminalisation for IPR infringement to wilful counterfeiting of trademarks, copyright infringement and design piracy. Promote the adoption of the London Protocol, and reduce patent costs."

According to the FFII, the SME sector strongly contests the report's assumption that SME's benefit from software patents, and that increased presence of software patents in the US has not hampered innovation in the US ICT sector.

The organisation claims that the work of the task force was dominated by the interests of the larger IT firms in the sector to the exclusion of SMEs.

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