[Fsfe-ie] IFSO press release: Software patents bad for SMEs

Teresa Hackett teresahackett at eircom.net
Thu Jun 30 17:29:21 CEST 2005



June 30, 2005

The proposed European Directive on Computer-Implemented Inventions
(the "Software Patents" directive) is bad news for SMEs, according to
the Irish Free Software Organisation (IFSO). "It will allow large
software companies, mostly from outside the EU, to monopolise the
software market in Europe and endanger the jobs of the vast majority
of indigenous software developers working in small businesses or as
individuals," said Glenn Strong, chairman of IFSO.

This view is shared by the European Association of Craft, Small and
Medium-sized Enterprises (UEAPME), which represents 11 million
companies employing over 50 million people in

Strong continued, "Software patents would expose all software
companies to an increased risk of litigation. For an SME, the costs of
defending an alleged case of patent infringement or seeking to have a
wrongly-granted patent overturned would be prohibitive. Large
companies, on the other hand, can afford to defend and pursue
litigation and will have much larger patent portfolios at their
disposal. It will be all too easy for them to use software patents to
demand license fees from European SMEs and to stifle competition."

Software is already protected by copyright law, which is granted at no
cost and outlives patent terms. "Copyright gives developers suitable
protection for their work," said Strong, "whereas patents, which
monopolise ideas, prevent others from developing competing
products. We already know that the software market is particularly
conducive to monopolies; patents will only make the problem worse."

There are 43,000 software patents that have already been granted by
the European Patent Office, nearly three-quarters of which are held by
non-European companies. The patents are currently unenforceable, and
have yet to have any effect. However, the directive, as it stands,
will legitimise the patents. "The nature of software development is
such that it is likely that almost every complex piece of software
infringes one or more of those 43,000 patents," said Strong.

The directive is also bad news for developers and users of Free
Software (sometimes called "open source software"), which includes the
software running thousands of web servers, email servers and other
vital services. "As Free Software solutions are increasingly
outperforming proprietary solutions, we can expect some companies to
use patent law to hamper competition from Free Software," said
Strong. "The freedoms guaranteed by Free Software make it incompatible
with patent licenses. If this directive is passed unamended, the
livelihoods of many European developers and users of Free Software
will be at risk."

"The European Parliament opposed software patents at the previous vote
on this issue. Our message for business, software developers and users
is: get in touch with your MEPs to let them know that you oppose
software patents and that you need them to vote to keep software truly
free of patent monopoly restrictions," concluded Ciaran O'Riordan,
speaking from Brussels on behalf of IFSO.

About IFSO

IFSO was founded in January 2004 with the aims of promoting and
protecting software which comes with the freedom to study it, modify
it and redistribute it: Free Software. Notable examples of Free
Software include the GNU/Linux operating system, the OpenOffice.org
office suite and the Firefox web browser. Free software developed in
Europe includes the MySQL database system, the SpamAssassin email
filter, the SuSE and Mandriva Linux distributions, and the KDE
desktop. IFSO seeks the wider use of Free Software, and a wider
understanding of the benefits that software freedom brings through
independence, transparency and the ability to collaborate with
others. IFSO works to ensure that new legislation does not restrict
the writing of Free Software. IFSO would also like to see businesses
which write, deploy or support Free Software being encouraged.

More Information

For further information contact

    Glenn Strong +353 87 6782998 chairman at ifso.ie
    Éibhear Ó hAnluain  +353 86 8565666 ifso at gibiris.org
    Ciaran O'Riordan (Brussels) +32 479 549 295 ciaran at fsfe.org

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