Sharon Bowles

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Sharon Bowles, MEP

Sharon Bowles (born 12 June 1953, Oxford) is a Liberal Democrat MEP from the UK for South East (since 12.05.2005).[1] Having trained as a patent agent (1978-1981), she has been practising as a Patent and Trade Mark Attorney since 1981.[2] She established her own firm, Bowles Horton, with her husband, Andrew Horton, also a European Patent Attorney.[3] Her professional interests have mainly been concerned with electronics, integrated circuit design and semiconductor fabrication.[4]


She was elected to the European Parliament in May 2005 as an MEP for South East England. She is also a member of Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe and a substitute member of the Committee on Legal Affairs.[5]


Affiliations

Former Affiliations

Record and Controversies

Declaration of Financial Interests

Professional Activities:

  • Entitled to practise (but not actively practising) as:
Chartered Patent Attorney
European Patent Attorney
Registered Trade Mark Agent
Representative before the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market (OHIM)

Paid Functions or Activities:

  • I remain a partner in Bowles Horton, Patent and Trade Mark Attorneys, as a founder partner. I do not have any part in the day to day administration or professional activity of the firm but remain authorised to sign documents for emergency purposes. My husband runs the partnership and I have an ongoing small profit share.[6]

Former Declaration of Financial Interests

Professional Activities:

  • Entitled to practise (but not actively practising) as:
Chartered Patent Attorney
European Patent Attorney
Registered Trade Mark Agent
Representative before the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market (OHIM)

Paid Functions or Activities:

Background to Conflicts

Software patents

Bowles was one of the prime MEP backers of the EU software patents directive, which its opponents argued granted large corporations stronger intellectual property rights over software. It was rejected by Parliament in July 2005.

Key to the software patents debate was an organisation called “Campaign for Creativity” that claimed to represent artists, musicians, designers, engineers and software developers. The campaign lobbied MEPs with the aim of securing a parliamentary majority for the proposed changes. It was exposed as a fake ‘grassroots’ campaign run by Simon Gentry of London-based public affairs firm Campbell Gentry and supported by software giants like Microsoft and SAP. The Campaign won the “Worst Lobby Award” in 2005.[8] In July 2005, Gentry noted how “a number of MEPs excelled in putting the case for our side of the argument. In particular, Socialist Arlene McCarthy, Sharon Bowles Liberal Democrat – and a patent lawyer – followed by Malcolm Harbour, Christian Democrat, all of whom laid out the case effectively and clearly. There were many others supporting our case but these three stood out.”[9]

By the end of 2005, the Campaign for Creativity had transformed itself into the Innovation and Creativity Group (ICG), again essentially a business front group. Its chair was Sharon Bowles and secretary was Simon Gentry.[10][11][12]

Conflicts of Interest

Bowles Horton has mainly been concerned with electronics, integrated circuit design and semiconductor fabrication,[13] and “has a client list which includes some of the major leaders in R&D in various electronics fields throughout the world.”[14]

Bowles argues “I don’t think there is any conflict of interest with me being an MEP and a patent lawyer, as I am not practising. Technically I do maintain my ability to practice because of my partner in the business, my husband, and there might be some occasion where it is necessary to sign a form. I am certainly far too busy as an MEP, but I can’t divest myself from a financial interest via my spouse.”[15] Although Bowles suggests that her financial interest is via her spouse, she declares on her official register of interests that she is paid for her post as partner of the company.

Bowles is also a member of the parliamentary committee of the Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys (CIPA), the professional body for UK patent attorneys. The committee’s role is to “lobby the appropriate parliamentary body,” including both the UK Parliament and European Parliaments. Which means that, through the Institute, Bowles could theoretically lobby herself as an MEP.

Bowles says she used to go to meetings of the CIPA’s committee “a long time ago”. “We looked at new legislation to point out where we thought it was not working,” she says. However, she admits that it is “valid” to think there might be a conflict of interest “and would be happy to come off”.[16]

Political opponents ask if it is possible for Bowles to “see the other side of the debate” given that she is so in favour of patents.[17] One example they point to is the debate over software patents as mentioned in the above section.

Following the defeat of the software patents directive in 2005, the European Commission in early 2006 launched a new consultation on the patent system in Europe.[18] Later that year Bowles was one of two MEPs – the other being Klaus-Heiner Lehne – at the forefront of pushing the new Commission proposal called the European Patent Litigation Agreement.[19]

In October 2006 Bowles and Lehne were among seven MEPs to put forward a motion for a resolution to the Parliament urging the European Commission to explore “all possible ways of improving the patent and patent litigation systems in the EU”.[20] In March 2007, Bowles and Lehne travelled to the European Patent Conference at which Bowles was a speaker. On her blog, Bowles wrote: “The panel session goes well. I get the feeling that I am the most in tune with those attending. Several of the patent attorneys... come to me afterwards and say that I had done well and made things very clear. I am gratified for I can think of nothing worse than my former colleagues thinking I was doing a bad job!”[21]

Bowles defends her work on the software patents directive by saying “ It was more a question of technical expertise. People used to say ‘she would say that wouldn’t she’. [The directive] was more concerned about [the patent] industry in general. It’s like saying judges like crime. It is ridiculous.” She argues “the patent work I do as an MEP is looking at how we get a common European system that is cheaper for businesses to operate under. That is of interest to everybody. I don’t just think you should have patents.”[22]

Finally Bowles likens her critics to the “forces of evil who are girding their loins because they think something might be happening and they want to take me out of the equation.”[23]

Record of Parliamentary Votes

Personal Information

Curriculum Vitae

  • B.Sc. (Hons.), Chemical Physics with Mathematics (1974).
  • Research into semiconductor materials and devices, Oxford University (1974-1977).
  • Trained as a patent agent (1978-1981).
  • Practising Patent and Trade Mark Attorney (since 1981).
  • In the Liberal Democrat Party:
Secretary, Chilterns Region (1990-1995).
Member of the Federal Executive and Federal Finance Committee (2000-2003).
Co-Chair, International Relations Committee (since 2002).
Vice-President, ELDR aisbl (since 2004).
Vice-President, Liberal International (since 2005).

Contact

Address:
Parlement européen
Bât. Altiero Spinelli
10G201
60, rue Wiertz / Wiertzstraat 60
B-1047 Bruxelles/Brussel
Phone:
+32 (0)2 28 45221
Fax:
+32 (0)2 28 49221
Email:
sharon.bowles AT europarl.europa.eu
Website:
http://www.sharonbowles.org.uk
EU Insigna.png This article is part of the MEPedia project of Spinwatch.



Resources

Notes

  1. European Parliament, MEP Directory: Sharon Bowles, accessed 10 September 2010.
  2. European Parliament, MEP Directory: Sharon Bowles, accessed 06 November 2008.
  3. Liberal Democrat Members of the European Parliament, SharonBowles, accessed 06 November 2008.
  4. German Ministry of Justice, Resume: Sharow Bowles, accessed 06 November 2008.
  5. European Parliament, MEP Directory: Sharon Bowles, accessed 06 November 2008.
  6. European Parliament, Declaration of Members' Financial Interests: Sharon Bowles, 14 July 2009, accessed 04 November 2009.
  7. European Parliament, Declaration of Members' Financial Interests: Sharon Bowles, 06 January 2009, accessed 08 February 2009.
  8. Worst EU Lobbying, 2005 Nominees, accessed 06 November 2008.
  9. Corporate Europe Observatory, "How the Campaign for Creativity morphed into the Innovation and Creativity Group," November 2006, accessed 06 November 2008.
  10. Corporate Europe Observatory, "How the Campaign for Creativity morphed into the Innovation and Creativity Group," November 2006, accessed 06 November 2008.
  11. Information Age, "[http://www.informationage.com/article/latest/action_reaction_patent_reform Do US patent laws protect innovators, or are they too open to abuse?]" April 3, 2006, cited in Rowell, Andy, "Too Close for Comfort?" Spinwatch, July 2008.
  12. FFII, "FFII, Innovation And Creativity, or Campaign4Creativity reloaded," accessed 06 November 2008.
  13. German Ministry of Justice, Sharow Bowles, accessed 06 November 2008.
  14. Bowles Horton, Bowles Horton European Patent & Trademark Attorneys, accessed 06 November 2008.
  15. Bowles, Sharon, Interview with Andy Rowell, May 2008, cited in Rowell, Andy, "Too Close for Comfort?" Spinwatch, July 2008.
  16. Bowles, Sharon, Interview with Andy Rowell, May 2008, cited in Rowell, Andy, "Too Close for Comfort?" Spinwatch, July 2008.
  17. Leading MEP on patent policy, Interview with Author, November 2007, cited in Rowell, Andy, "Too Close for Comfort?" Spinwatch, July 2008.
  18. European Commission, Questionnaire On the patent system in Europe, Internal Market and Services DG, Brussels, January 09, 2006, accessed 06 November 2008.
  19. FFII, EPLA 2006, accessed 06 November 2008.
  20. European Parliament, Motion For A Resolution to wind up the debate on the statement by the Commission pursuant to Rule 103(2) of the Rules of Procedure, by – Klaus-Heiner Lehne, Giuseppe Gargani and Nicole Fontaine, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group; Maria Berger and Michel Rocard, on behalf of the PSE Group; Sharon Bowles and Toine Manders, on behalf of the ALDE Group on future patent policy in Europe, October 4, 2006, accessed 06 November 2008.
  21. Bowles, Sharon, "Patent Conference," 30 March 2007, accessed 06 November 2008.
  22. Bowles, Sharon, Interview with Andy Rowell, May 2008, cited in Rowell, Andy, "Too Close for Comfort?" Spinwatch, July 2008.
  23. Bowles, Sharon, Interview with Andy Rowell, May 2008, cited in Rowell, Andy, "Too Close for Comfort?" Spinwatch, July 2008.