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

Justin Mason jm at jmason.org
Fri Feb 11 18:48:01 CET 2005

Hash: SHA1

Malcolm Tyrrell writes:
> Why does the following point keep coming up? Do I misunderstand the issue,
> or is this just plain nonsense:
> From: http://www.enn.ie/news.html?code•87188
> > Indeed, the big businesses that backed the directive -- such as Philips,
> > Nokia, Alcatel and Microsoft
> > [...]
> > also say, in somewhat ominous terms, that without patent protection, big
> > companies will be less inclined to spend cash on European R&D projects,
> > because the governments of Europe cannot offer any guarantees that
> > commercially useful technology will be protected. In the US, those
> > much-needed safeguards are in place, patent supporters note.
> I presume that these big companies will obtain patents in all territories
> where patents are available, regardless of where the R&D is performed.
> Unless they are threatening this merely as revenge (and I would think that
> there responsibility to their own shareholders precludes this), there
> would be no more or less reason to do R&D in Europe whether software
> is patentable there or not. Am I wrong?

Nope.  You're spot on -- this is just FUD.

Applying for patents world-wide does seem to be the general strategy -- in
fact, most software patents would typically be applied for first in the US
(being the largest software market), then in regional markets (EPO, Japan,
Oz, etc.)

It doesn't matter where the company performs it's R&D -- as long as it has
an office in the country governed by the relevant patent office, it can
apply for patents there.  Doesn't matter if R&D actually takes place
there, just sales, or even just an office admin manning an answerphone.
As a result it's SOP for most medium-to-large-sized software companies to
have at least a small subsidiary company in each overseas region, to
perform tasks like this.

(Money and time is an issue, of course, since each patent application
is a separate application, requires lawyer billable hours, and has
its own fees for each region.  That can interfere in getting all
areas covered.  But that's irrelevant to this FUD soundbite.)

- --j.
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