[Fsfe-ie] EU software patent fight rages in Dublin

adam beecher lists at beecher.net
Fri May 7 19:05:12 CEST 2004

      EU software patent fight rages in Dublin
      Friday, May 07 2004
      by Anthony Quinn

      The proposed EU directive that would lay down the rules for the
patenting of computer-implemented inventions is once again creating a storm.

                  Latest ENN headlines
                  For the record 7 May
                  Wanted: Google chairman
                  Baltimore board hangs on by a thread

      A number of Irish companies met on Thursday with the Dail Committee on
European Affairs to discuss the proposed patenting law. The
Computer-Implemented Inventions directive, brought in to harmonise existing
patent legislation, aims to remove barriers to trade in patented products
within the EU.

      In fact, the proposed law has been a matter of intense argument -- and
public demonstrations -- with detractors saying the original form of the
directive would stifle software R&D among small businesses. Those in favour
of early drafts of the law, a list that includes many large corporations,
argue that tighter patent laws are necessary to protect innovation.

      At this point, the directive has been amended several times by the
European Parliament, with the latest version weighted against the interests
of groups favouring more rigorous patent laws. Thursday's Dail Committee
meeting is the most recent of many moves by the Irish government aimed at
brokering a deal between the two sides before Ireland's EU Presidency comes
to an end.

      "No directive [of any kind] would be better than the one the European
Parliament is proposing," according to Brian Caulfield, Trinity Venture
Capital investment director and chair of the ICT Ireland subcommittee on
intellectual property management. Without the Irish amendment, the proposed
law would undermine "a common business model of the ICT sector and could
result in a significant reduction in investment within the EU," he said. "Th
is is a very serious this issue," he added.

      In September 2003, members of the European Parliament voted
overwhelmingly to remove portions of the proposed law that would offer
patent protections to software and software-based services. Amazon.com's
famous "one-click" shopping technology has been widely used as an example of
an invention that might not be eligible for a patent under European law.

      The Irish government has been proactive and has created a compromise
text that eliminates the key amendments that could create a situation in
which existing patent portfolios are legally un-enforceable while also
protecting intellectual property, added Caulfield.

      Almost without exception early stage companies use patents as part of
their ability to stand up to bigger companies and get value from their R&D,
Caulfield said. "There is an unusual level of agreement across the industry
that the [European] Parliament text should not be adopted," according to the
venture capitalist.

      Developing ideas in a cave

      "With patenting, the use of the idea is what causes an infringement,"
said Ciaran O'Riordan, chairman of the Irish Free Software Organisation
(IFSO). "If you go into a cave with a laptop and independently develop an
idea, you may still be breaking the law," he said.

      The ability for entities to purchase exclusive rights to the use of an
idea could have severe negative affect on the Irish software industry and on
free software, according to O'Riordan. "This version of the directive, as
amended during the democratic phase of the legislative process in the
European Parliament, will remove legal uncertainty from the process," he

      "The original vote on the directive was deferred three times in the
Parliament because MEPs didn't have enough information about this incredibly
technical and legal field," added O'Riordan. "Eventually the MEPs were happy
enough and had the vote. All 11 of the Irish MEPs that voted approved of the
amendments," he said.

      If software ideas become patentable, compatibility, and therefore
competition, will become illegal, according to both the IFSO and parent
organisation the Free Software Foundation (FSF), which was founded 1985 to
promote computer users' right to use, study, copy, modify, and redistribute
computer programs. Cyberlaw expert Lawrence Lessig and Massachusetts
Institute of Technology Professor of Computer Science Gerald Sussman are
among the technology luminaries on the board of the FSF.

      Both the Irish Free Software Organisation and the Free Software
Foundation Europe have endorsed an action week from 10 May to 14 May to
inform citizens, economy and politics about the possible harmful
consequences of adopting software patents.

      The Irish government's proposed text for the controversial
computer-implemented inventions directive is to be examined at the 17 May
meeting of the EU Competitiveness Council.

-------------- next part --------------
A non-text attachment was scrubbed...
Name: not available
Type: image/gif
Size: 49 bytes
Desc: not available
Url : http://mail.fsfeurope.org/pipermail/fsfe-ie/attachments/20040507/ed17b1de/attachment.gif 
-------------- next part --------------
A non-text attachment was scrubbed...
Name: not available
Type: application/octet-stream
Size: 43 bytes
Desc: not available
Url : http://mail.fsfeurope.org/pipermail/fsfe-ie/attachments/20040507/ed17b1de/attachment.obj 
-------------- next part --------------
A non-text attachment was scrubbed...
Name: not available
Type: application/octet-stream
Size: 43 bytes
Desc: not available
Url : http://mail.fsfeurope.org/pipermail/fsfe-ie/attachments/20040507/ed17b1de/attachment-0001.obj 

More information about the FSFE-IE mailing list