[Fsfe-ie] Re: Conversation with Mrs. Doyle last week

Niall Douglas s_fsfeurope2 at nedprod.com
Tue Aug 19 00:22:23 CEST 2003

On 18 Aug 2003 at 10:20, Justin Mason wrote:

> > 2. All existing patents registered at the EPO should become null and
> > void though if their holders choose, they may reapply under the new
> > criteria and if successful, they get a new patent in preference to
> > any newer applications.
> Oops!  *software* patents, not just patents in general ;)  I would
> clarify that...
> Apart from that oversight (I would think ;) it's a great letter BTW.
> Thanks for the link to the gnu-friends.org article with all those
> quotes -- I hadn't seen that before.

While I think the context was clear, I personally would actually 
support disbanding the EPO and starting again. For a European Patent 
Office, it has singularly done an awful job at it and many MEP's 
would agree with that assessment. Furthermore, it acts outside the EU 
and often contrary to the EU which is actually why there is a set of 
patent harmonisation directives going through the EU (one of which is 
the cause of our campaign) - in exchange for harmonisation, the EU 
gets a bigger say at the EPO.

However, the EU decided to work with the existing system rather than 
create a competing patent office. Unfortunately :(

> The point about most of the EPO's list of software patents belonging
> to US multinationals, is a really key point IMO.

Except that pro-patent interests say that's why the EU risks getting 
left behind internationally ie; the longer without patents, the worse 
it'll get when the flood doors open.

Hence why I've called for a permanent ban forever on software patents 
and flushing of all registered software patents which shouldn't have 
been registered anyway under the 1991 directive. Of course they were 
with the expectation that the ban would be overturned.

> > Reason: You can filter out "patent land grabs" as commonly practised
> > by software multinationals who patent thousands of promising areas
> > of software development and yet further develop only a few. If
> > however they have to write a reference implementation, not only do
> > you strongly encourage the company to further develop the patent but
> > you also substantially lessen the patent being used to prevent
> > further development by competitors.
> I'm not sure this is a solution.  Consider these patents -- the
> "transforming long filenames" Sun one at the EPO, or the "drawing a
> pie chart" MS one at the USPTO.  Both are easily demonstrated in a ref
> impl, since they are both fundamental techniques easily written in 3
> hours.
> Since they are so fundamental they should not be patents -- but the
> ref impl requirement doesn't place any impediment in the way.

The need for a reference implementation does not and can not prevent 
bad patents. But it does prevent to a large extent land grabbing of 
good patent space for anti-competitive purposes.


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