[Fsfe-ie] patent letter

teresahackett at eircom.net teresahackett at eircom.net
Fri May 7 18:38:48 CEST 2004

Some Irish bods:
1. Tony McGrath, Jacob Rajan (Principal Examiner of Patents) at Entemp.
2. Anne-Marie O'Connor, First Secretary, Industrial Policy, Competition (State Aids) at COREPER and Irish rep on IP working group, email annmarie.oconnor at iveagh.gov.ie


> Probably a bit late now but I was thinking of firing this little rant off to
> Mary Hornet and various others (maybe adapt it as a letter for the paper).
> Any comments?
> Is 21 years correct as the (maximum) lifespan of a patent.
> Where can I get a list of people who should get my letter?
> F
> ---
> Dear Whoever,
> I am a software developer who has in the past worked as an independent
> developer, designing and implementing software systems for clients. I am
> currently employed by an Irish software company but I hope in the future to
> be able work again as an independent developer if it suits me or possibly to
> start my own software company.
> During the course of this work, I have developed many interesting solutions
> to challenging problems in a variety of areas. Some of these solutions I
> would consider to be quite clever and original (at least in that they were
> created without knowledge or reference to the work of others who may have
> addressed the same problem). In this respect I am no different to most
> software developers, I spend a large part of my time "inventing".
> Could you please explain how I and others as independent software developers
> or small start up companies can possibly function in an environment with
> software patents. How will it be possible for me to do a days work (not to
> mention be innovative) if I must check every single line of code to ensure
> there are no prior patent claims on the techniques I have used? You may
> think that I will not have to check everything, because there will be a high
> standard of originality, novelty and invention required for a patent to be
> granted but this completely ignores the fact that what seems obvious and
> well known now may have been deemed worthy of a patent many years ago. With
> a lifespan of 21 years there would be an impossibly large amount of patents
> to check. The reason such a vast number of software patents don't exist
> already, in the USA for instance, is that most innovators have spent their
> time innovating rather than filing patent applications.
> Even if Europe applies and maintains far higher standards than the USA then
> such a regime will still cripple all but the largest companies - those who
> have created war chests of patents which they can leverage in cross
> licensing deals and which they are already using to try keep smaller
> innovators out of the market.
> As an aside, I consider it quite unlikely that high standards will be
> applied given that European patent offices have already granted thousands of
> software patents. There are no real incentives for them to limit the
> granting of patents to the truly novel and inventive and in fact it's the
> reverse, the offices and their examiners actually profit from granting as
> many applications as possible.
> The only option open to independent contractors, small and medium sized
> companies is to shut up shop or just close their eyes, completely ignore
> software patents and hope nobody sues. The only beneficiaries of software
> patents will be the big companies and the patent industry.
> So, in closing, I would ask again that you please explain (just an outline)
> how an independent contractor or a smaller company can function in an
> environment where every piece of their work potentially infringes a multiple
> patents.
> I look forward to hearing from you,
> Fergal Daly.
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Teresa Hackett
114 Cedar House
Mespil Estate, Sussex Road
Dublin 4, Ireland
Email: teresahackett at eircom.net
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