[Fsfe-ie] My comments on ENNs story of patents restart

Ciaran O'Riordan ciaran at member.fsf.org
Fri Feb 11 15:24:38 CET 2005

Electricnews published...
"Owning logic in Europe": http://www.enn.ie/news.html?code=9587188

So I wrote this to the author...

[My mail was a bit long, but my net connection was dead for a while and I
 just kept adding to it.  I didn't send "as IFSO", but now I see I used a
 1st+3rd person "us" in closing.  I'll be more careful in future since I
 didn't run this by anyone else of IFSO before sending.]


In one place the article says the directive is going back to the drawing
board, but in two other places it says the directive was killed.  The former
is correct.

Unclear wordings in the current text of the directive would allow software
ideas to be patented.  With each stage of the legislative process, it
becomes harder to modify the text.  The Free Software community, as well as
Europe's SMEs, don't want to move on to the next step until the
recently-added unclear wording of the Council has been fixed.

The textual problems with the current text include clauses of the form:
"Software will not be patentable unless X", where on legal interpretation, X
is always true.  As well as statements that rely on the undefined terms
"technical contribution", "industry", "technical field" and "invention".

The Parliament added definitions for these terms, but the Council removed
the definitions.

We are glad that the JURI Committee has voted to request that the
legislative process be taken back one step to a stage where the text can be
fixed again.  We hope Commissioner McCreevy will honour that request.

The article implies that the Free Software community would be happy if the
directive was killed, but the opposite is true.  Due to the current lack of
clarity in the European Patent Convention, the European Patent Office has
accepted 30,000 software idea patents.  Whether these are actually
enforceable is debatable, but the only such debate that makes a difference
is in a court room, and the average 200,000 euro cost of such a debate are
prohibitive to individuals and the vast majority of European businesses.

We need the clarity that this directive promised, and we're working hard to
ensure it delivers that clarity.

It is a bluff when peopls say that international businesses might decide
whether or not to invest in Europe based on this directive.  When a patent
is applied for, the invention's origin makes no difference.  Currently, the
EU is a safe place to develop software because software writers in the EU
are not open to patent litigation.  At the same time, software writers in
the EU can patent their software ideas in the USA.

The effects of allowing software ideas to be patented in the EU would be
that patent holders can decide who can write compatible software, and that
software writers in the EU would become open to patent litigation lawsuits
and threats.

Thanks for including the quotes from Greve, and for mentioning free
software.  If IFSO can be of any future help, don't hesitate to email us at
contact [at] ifso.ie

Ciarán O'Riordan
Free Software in Ireland: http://www.ifso.ie

More information about the FSFE-IE mailing list