[Fsfe-ie] letter to entemp

James Heald j.heald at ucl.ac.uk
Mon May 10 23:12:19 CEST 2004

Fergal Daly wrote:

> I sent the letter below to ipu at entemp.ie, I not sure what I should expect as
> a response. It's my assumption that no such documents exist. I was thinking
> of potentially following up with an FOI request. If that turned up nothing
> then it would give us some ammo in terms of publicity - ie here's the dept
> pushing for software patents even though they haven't actually thought about
> what will happen if they come in.

There was a study done for the European Commission looking at SMEs 
feelings about patents on software by Puay Tang at the University of Sussex.

Puay's take, based on the research that she's done, is that 
economics-wise swpats are pretty much a bad idea.

But from what I remember of the study, the responses weren't quite sharp 
enough for it to be a smoking gun, and the Commission buried it.

The other main studies are a study by the Fraunhofer institute in 
Germany, on German SMEs, which very much highlighted interoperability 
and risks to open source as potential problems.

There were the two consultation excercises, one run by the EU and the 
other by the UK patent office, which again mostly showed the big players
and their patent lawyers as the people in favour of swpat, with SMEs 
mostly against, but discounted as whipped up by Eurolinux.

This EU study was also the one which said the big firms represented the 
"weight of economic opinion" -- even though in eg Germany, over 3/4 of 
IT jobs are in SMEs.

There was also a pretty skeptical report for the European Parliament's 
DG IV (Research), done by the University of Amsterdam.

Before all of these there was a study commissioned from the Institute 
for Intellectual Property in London.  The Economics part was 
subcontracted out to Peter Holmes at Sussex, who basically said there is 
no evidence to indicate software patents are a good thing.  But the rest 
of the study was written by two lawyers, very pro-swpat, who also wrote 
the introduction, which claimed that the experience of the United States 
showed how useful swpats were in encouraging and rewarding innovation, 
particularly re SMEs.

The above is for memory, so is maybe a fairly broad-brush summary.

www.softwarepatenter.dk has a good collection of papers on software 
patents, which I think probably includes most of the above.  Otherwise 
you can probably find them with Google; and I think there are some 
fairly 'robust' comments about some of them at  swpat.ffii.org

Interesting to see what entemp will come back with, though...

> I'm not sure if attempting to embarass the dept/minister is a road we want
> to go down but I think the request might be worth it, even if we don't make
> a big hoo hah of the results. Maybe they do have analysis documents, in
> which case we could try to engage a bit more constructively,
> F
> Hi,
> I'm looking into the new EU directive on patents and I'm concerned about the
> software patents aspect of it. I was hoping if you could send me any
> documents, papers etc which analyse or describe what impact the EU directive
> will have on the software industry in Europe. In particular I'm interested
> in the impact on small companies and independent software contractors and
> how it is expected that they will cope with the extra burden of ensuring
> that their work does not infringe on any patents and also how they will deal
> with defending against spurious claims of infringement. By spurious claims, I
> do not only mean cases where the patent is not valid or should not have been
> granted, I also include the case where someone would have to go through   
> lengthy and expensive proceedings to prove that a particular patent does not
> cover the techniques they have used.
> I would also be interested to know what sort of standards you envision being 
> applied in terms of novelty, originality and inventiveness. I'm sure you are
> aware that in the US there have been serious problems with the standards
> applied and proponents of software patents have said that much higher
> standards will apply in Europe. Do you have (or know of) any documents that
> describe these standards and how they would be enforced. Could you perhaps
> give me examples of software patents granted in the USA that will not be
> granted in the proposed European system. Could you also supply examples of
> software patents granted in the US which would also be granted in the EU.
> Thank you for your time, please feel free to contact me by email or by phone
> if you need to clarify anything,
> Fergal Daly.
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