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EU Closer To Rejecting Software Patents

Zonk posted more than 9 years ago | from the one-step-forward-two-steps-back dept.

Patents 213

niekko writes "BusinessWeek is reporting on the hot subject of European software patent directive. 'The European Parliament moved Tuesday toward rejecting a proposed law creating a single way of patenting software across the European Union, officials said -- a move that would effectively kill the legislation since lawmakers do not plan to set forth a new version.'"

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Yay! (0, Offtopic)

Eese (647951) | more than 9 years ago | (#12987965)

This is the best news since hackingthemainframe.com!!

Re:Yay! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12988017)

I for one welcome MiG as our new overlord.

If only... (3, Interesting)

scsirob (246572) | more than 9 years ago | (#12987974)

If only this would happen... I have written to many of the MEP's involved. Most don't even respond. Others appear to be either blonde or bought... Let's all keep our fingers crossed that common sense prevails.

Re:If only... (1)

NicklessXed (897466) | more than 9 years ago | (#12988005)

Yes, it would be great thing if this sh*t got rejected. But even though it kinda looks like it atm, I'm still worried. Also, I don't think supporters of this crap will give up so easy...

Re:If only... (3, Funny)

cybersaga (451046) | more than 9 years ago | (#12988007)

Let's all keep our fingers crossed that common sense prevails.

Knowing the kind of "sense" that is common today, quite frankly I hope you're wrong.

Re:If only... (1)

Prometheus+Bob (755514) | more than 9 years ago | (#12988027)

I'm blonde and bought, you insensitive clod!

You forgot something (1)

HomerJayS (721692) | more than 9 years ago | (#12988255)

When you wrote to the MEPs involved, you obviously forgot to include the number of the well-funded Swiss account that you should have set up for them.

Re:If only... (2, Informative)

jrutley (723005) | more than 9 years ago | (#12988291)

You better try calling or faxing them then.

Taken from Groklaw:
The amendments FFII view as most important are the amendments to Articles 3, 4.1, 4.2, 5.2 and 6a. By the way, FFII says that MEPS are apparently no longer reading email about the directive. You can only reach them in Strasbourg by phone or fax.

Re:If only... (4, Informative)

nickos (91443) | more than 9 years ago | (#12988358)

Actually, I think the best thing would be for the directive to be passed with the 21 cross-party amendments (read more about the Buzek-Rocard-Duff amendments here: http://wiki.ffii.org/AmPlenPr050701En [ffii.org] and here: http://swpat.ffii.org/papers/europarl0309/amends05 /komprom0506.en.pdf [ffii.org] )

Failing that we want a rejection of course...

This brings some new hope... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12987995)

..but to be sure, we'll have to wait (and hope) 'till tomorrow.

Let's hope they get it right this time.

Still, there has to be a new law for this kind of stuff. Right now, the EPA will patent software anyway, for there is no rule to follow.

But still; it is hope.

Good luck to all you Europeans... (3, Insightful)

suitepotato (863945) | more than 9 years ago | (#12987998)

...from those of us living where government was too stupid to know the difference between copyrights and patents and has ignited a building war over what Intellectual Property should mean or be.

Our prayers go with you.

Re:Good luck to all you Europeans... (2, Insightful)

daniil (775990) | more than 9 years ago | (#12988024)

where government was too stupid to know the difference between copyrights and patents

Judging from what i've seen on Slashdot, the people -- even the ones that think they know everything about software -- aren't any smarter in this respect, either...

Re:Good luck to all you Europeans... (2, Insightful)

SLi (132609) | more than 9 years ago | (#12988127)

Indeed. It's funny how people go about lecturing others about IP issues here on slashdot and then they seem to use the words "patent", "trademark" and "copyright" (or even worse "copywrite") interchangeably.

Re:Good luck to all you Europeans... (1)

suitepotato (863945) | more than 9 years ago | (#12988206)

Indeed. It's funny how people go about lecturing others about IP issues here on slashdot and then they seem to use the words "patent", "trademark" and "copyright" (or even worse "copywrite") interchangeably.

I've seen it since I first started looking over legal protection for what I wrote and finally my eyes glazed over and my jaw sunk into a permanent open in shock format on this subject when no less than three different lawyers didn't know.

Simple short form rule is that names of things are trademarks (Compaq), inventions of physical items or processes are patents (sewing machine attachments), and creative (or not so creative) assemblage of information is copyrights (*cough*, Brittney Spears CDs, *cough*, *hack*, *wheeze*). Three different subjects and three different departments. Now we've got the last being mixed up with the second one. We might as well just give trademarks to items and copyrights to names. © and ® and (P) oh my.

Re:Good luck to all you Europeans... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12988076)

While it is true that the US Patent Office can make some rather laughable mistakes (such as patenting the concept of Supply and Demand) these are often eventually overturned. While I am a big supporter of open source software, streamlined patents and secure protection are important when it comes to ensuring that the great wealth of industrial organizations is brought to bear on the technical issues about which we all spend so much time thinking (and, if you are doing academic research, for which you will be trying to secure funding).

Re:Good luck to all you Europeans... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12988152)

LOL, what?

Re:Good luck to all you Europeans... (3, Interesting)

John Seminal (698722) | more than 9 years ago | (#12988196)

...from those of us living where government was too stupid to know the difference between copyrights and patents and has ignited a building war over what Intellectual Property should mean or be.

I still don't understand much of these laws. They seem stupid and dumb to me, designed to protect the rich corporations, not people.

Problem #1. What if there is an idea that everyone would have, but someone out there patents it first? Does that mean that everyone else can not use that idea for their own benifit or profit? For example, the way something is sold on the internet.

Problem #2. What when this patent creates a monopoly. Does that mean everyone is stuck with having to pay extremely high prices, prices the market would never allow if there was competition?

And an interesting question. Why can anyone make a tire? Nobody will sue Joe Blow because he starts a tire company. Now what if Ford decided to patent tires. Can anyone imgaine how much a tire would cost if nobody else could make them? I would bet the cost would be double.

Here is the lawsuit I am waiting for. Say, for example, Ford patents a new rubber compound that will not burst. They use this rubber to make a safer tire. Everyone figures out all Ford did was add sand to their rubber mix, or something easy and stupid. Company B wants to make these tires, as a very cheap alternative to Fords premium "keep the family safe" tires. Ford sues this company, and wins. There is only one "safe" tire. Now the Smith family is a poor inner city black family. They need tires, but they can't afford the $400 per tire Fords. So they buy the non-safe $50 per tire generics. One day, on the way back from church, a tire blows on the highway and the car rolls, killing one of their children. Now, if the generic company could have made those tires, the Smiths would be alive because they could have purchased a generic "safe" tire for non-Ford prices. I would like to see someone like this sue Ford for the death of their family member.

Capitalism has its abuses. Patents are one of them. I can understand protecting a persons idea if it is so new and complex that nobody else would think of it, and the only way someone could have it is by theift. Patents should not be a mad rush to see who can fill out an application first, or for ideas that are unlikely to be had by one person only. Even if the idea is very complex, and unlikely that another person will have it, the patent should only last so long so that person can have a chance at enterting the marketplace without having large companies crush him. Patents should not harm society as a whole to make one person rich.

Re:Good luck to all you Europeans... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12988276)

Honestly, liberal ideals need not breed thoughtlessness. The lack of patents would both prevent big companies from funding as much reasearch as they do, and make it such that almost all innovation that did arise would be solely in their domain. The number of medical advances that would never have occured in the past 20 years without patent protections is tremendous. GM food (however hated it may be by some people) has saved millions of lives in India, and without patent protections the sort of research which is further advancing the capabilities of GM food would not occur.

Many new advances (particularly these "SUPER COMPLEX" sorts believe deserve protection) typically require a great deal of capital to implement effectively. So, you romantic independant inventor will simply be forced to sell out to an evil corporation who will then commit all the sins you are speaking of.

Your solution does not solve the problems, and impedes scientific advancement. Do not think that simply because some patents are abused and issued for silly things means that the idea of the patent for corporate developed technologies, even somewhat simple ones, so long as they are novel, is incorrect.

Re:Good luck to all you Europeans... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12988595)

GM seeds have contaminated the worlds food supply, hope they made enough money from their patents to cover themselves for polluting the entire planet.

Re:Good luck to all you Europeans... (1)

BillyBlaze (746775) | more than 9 years ago | (#12988626)

In the pharmaceutical industry, genetics industry, and even perhaps the semiconductor industry, I'll agree that many new advances require a great deal of capital to implement effectively. However, I would see that only as an argument for the patentability of those advances that are difficult to implement and only in those industries. It certainly is not an argument for the patentability of simple processes, and furthermore, it does not apply to the software industry. You can no longer revolutionize the medical industry with some crap you found in a dumpster, you can no longer start a hardware company soldering by hand. But there are extremly few aspects of software that can't be advanced by one or a few people and a few thousand dollars of equipment they already own. It's pretty obvious that software companies will bring their new ideas to market simply for the 6-month lead they will have, whether or not they can patent those ideas. No further incentive is needed, and considering the numerous harmful effects of patents, they aren't worth it in this industry.

Re:Good luck to all you Europeans... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12988330)

Why do you hate the American way?

Re:Good luck to all you Europeans... (0, Flamebait)

Shadez666 (736779) | more than 9 years ago | (#12988573)

I'm in a mood to take the flamebait :-)

Let's begin.

Americans live in the richest country on the planet but you have no medical insurance or social security for the less fortunate, you chose not to educate 80 percent of your citizens so they can serve the remaining 20 percent who just keep getting richer and more environmentally destructive.

You ignore the rest of the planet and idea of national security is based on threats, violence, oppression and insanely stupid propaganda that does not work in a Europe with educated people.

But i like Scrubs, Simpsons and CSI

Re:Good luck to all you Europeans... (1)

InvalidError (771317) | more than 9 years ago | (#12988554)

Problem #1. What if there is an idea that everyone would have, but someone out there patents it first? Does that mean that everyone else can not use that idea for their own benifit or profit? For example, the way something is sold on the internet.

Ways of doing business are already being patented - look at the multiple Amazon cases. Most of these patents are painfully obvious but would still cost milion$ in court/lawyer fees to get revoked. The patent systems worldwide are effectively being used by big businesses to strengten their monopoly position by fragmenting the market.

1- Patent something
2- Implement exclusive related features
3- Monopoly over the features and related markets
4- Profit
5- Antitrust
(6- Big trouble for small companies which governments can afford to crush, no big deal for most big corporations governments depend on like M$.)

Re:Good luck to all you Europeans... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12988559)

Actually, as part of the patent process prospects are supposed to be checked to make sure it is not patenting something obvious.

Patents have their uses. I'm against most "soft" patents like software patents, but other types are useful. There would be absolutely no point in small businesses or individuals ever inventing anything if you couldn't patent it. All the little guy could do is invent something, enter the market, sell one copy to Large Corp X and then die because Large Corp X will start selling copies at prices the little guy could never match. People would just stop inventing stuff.

Re:Good luck to all you Europeans... (1)

BillyBlaze (746775) | more than 9 years ago | (#12988701)

"There would be asolutely no point in small businesses or individuals ever inventing anything if [they] couldn't patent it."? Are you out of your mind!? Thomas Edison, one of the biggest individual patent-holders, said it himself: "Necessity is the mother of invention." To scratch an itch. I don't think you could point to one innovation in the field of software that would not have been invented without patents. (Actually, in the field of software, most discoveries were made before it even occurred to anybody to try to patent them.)

Unregulated capitalism doesn't last long... (1)

emil (695) | more than 9 years ago | (#12988606)

...as it quickly degenerates. Capitalism seems to me to be an intermediate state between anarchy and oligarchy.

Just as the distribution of particles in a chemical suspension will not remain uniform without constant agitation, the distribution of economic power will not remain disbursed throughout the population without constant antitrust enforcement.

It seems that we are seeing the tail end of this now.

Re:Good luck to all you Europeans... (1)

mikael (484) | more than 9 years ago | (#12988635)

Accountants and lawyers in corporations like trading stuff.

Being able to define software patents gives them more stuff to trade, at the same time making the company appear more valuable to shareholders.

As another example, the concept of "carbon credits" has been proposed, where companies (and perhaps even individuals) get to trade the right to pollute the environment ie. they buy and sell credits which give them the right to use hydrocarbon based energy sources.

Just something else to "trade" which was free before. And maybe this will extended to "water credits"

Re:Good luck to all you Europeans... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12988638)

I still don't understand much of these laws. They seem stupid and dumb to me, designed to protect the rich corporations, not people.

Yes.... you don't understand the laws so you misinterpret them.

First, look up the basic definitions like those found at Merriam Webster [m-w.com] or Dictionary.

Patents, by definition, give the patent holder a limited monopoly (for a given period of time) on making, selling, or using the thing that he has a patent on.

They aren't supposed to be given for things that are "obvious" or are already known or common practice. For example, I couldn't patent the PB&J sandwich because of prior art (they've been made by pretty much everyone for a long time. Likewise, something "easy and stupid" shouldn't be patentable.

The knee-jerk reaction that most people think is that "patents make me not able to do something that Microsoft has patented". What they seldom think is "my patent keeps Microsoft from running away with my ideas and leaving me out in the cold with nothing for my efforts". The former is basically the bottom-feeders' arguments. Someone has come up with something, the bottom-feeder wants to be able to take someone else's ideas and do it as well and, perhaps, gain by it. They then claim it "stifles invention". It wasn't their idea in the first place and yet they want to benefit from it (by simple use or even financially).

Take the company I currently work for. The owner had an idea and patented it himself. He then created a small business to realize his ideas. The patent is protecting his ideas for himself to benefit from. Without a patent, as soon as he published the idea in any form, anyone would be able to take the ideas and incorporate them into their own products (particularly a large company like Microsoft who could throw 100s of times the money at the problem) and leave him without any compensation for his original ideas.

What you read on Slashdot is, more often than not, the opinion of people who have no patents and who have never had any exposure to patents other than from the bottom-feeder perspective. Such people see ideas that some company has in their products that they want to duplicate for their OSS project and claim that patents are evil because they can't take those ideas and give them out freely (which could deprive the original owner of benefit from his ideas). Basically, like many they want the benefits for free... including not having the cost of having to think of something themselves.

Patents are not a bad thing unless they are abused. The US Patent Office has made some mistakes in the past but they seem to be ready to clean up any problems they make, when informed of the mistake. Also, the term of patents is too long for software patents simply because of the nature of software. If software patents were granted for, say, 3 years instead of the 17 years as they are now, then there would probably be less issue.

Beware of assuming that anyone (including myself) who posts on slashdot knows anything about what they are talking about. Look up things for yourself and understand the issues instead of just taking any random /.er post as being gospel. There's far too much religion and ignorance thrown around on here to be taken very seriously.

Re:Good luck to all you Europeans... (1)

yerM)M (720808) | more than 9 years ago | (#12988644)

Patents are not evil by default. In fact, patents put knowledge INTO the public domain. When you register a patent, you are essentially getting a short term contract from the United States that allow you to have a limited short term monopoly on your invention. After that time, ANYONE can use the patent.

This actually increases innovation over the long term because fifteen years from know your invention belongs to the people. Now, the short term is a bitch and because the life-cycle of products is shrinking rapidly especially for software, I'm not sure that fifteen to seventeen years is a viable length of time. Five years, sure. Go nuts.

I was using a wrench the other day. I've been using them for thirty years, the general wrench hasn't changed in probably fifty or so. This one had a simple notch on one of the sides of the wrench. This ingenious notch allows the nut to spin in the opposite direction allowing the wrench to be used as a ratchet. Incredible! Simple, almost trivial, but whoever thought of that deserves a patent.

Likewise, if someone from Ford makes a safer tire, they deserve a short term monopoly in exchange for telling EVERYONE how to make a safer tire as opposed to keeping it a trade secret. You honestly believe that isn't fair?

Re:Good luck to all you Europeans... (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) | more than 9 years ago | (#12988699)

Problem #1. What if there is an idea that everyone would have, but someone out there patents it first?

Then it shouldn't be granted a patent; one of the requirements is non-obviousness. This is why things like Amazon's "one click" patent are so frowned upon; they should never have been granted in the first place.

Problem #2. What when this patent creates a monopoly. Does that mean everyone is stuck with having to pay extremely high prices, prices the market would never allow if there was competition?

Erm... yes. That's the point. If you put in the time and money for the R&D, then the patent system is supposed to grant you a major competitive advantage (a short term monopoly) so that you can take advantage of your invention. If it's good enough that people want it straight away, they'll pay your price; if it's not, they can wait a while until the patent expires, and you won't make any money. Hence you have to charge a reasonable price.

The problem, once again, isn't the principle of patents per se, it's that the period for which the monopoly is granted is excessive in a business as fast-moving as IT (and indeed several others). It doesn't take a decade to capitalise on a great technology idea in this day and age, it takes months.

And an interesting question. Why can anyone make a tire? Nobody will sue Joe Blow because he starts a tire company. Now what if Ford decided to patent tires.

Ford can't patent tyres; another requirement for granting a patent is the lack of "prior art", i.e., that no-one else has done it before.

The answer to your tyre example, once again, is that Ford shouldn't be granted the patent for a change that is "simple and easy". And if Ford really do invest a large amount of time and money to develop a safer tyre, the patent scheme is there precisely to stop some rip-off merchant cloning the thing cheaply, since he doesn't have to recoup his investment from the profits he makes in manufacturing.

What you're missing in saying that everyone should have access to those tyres at the cheap rate is that without the patent protection, they might never have been invented in the first place. The little guy certainly doesn't have the huge R&D resources Ford does, and if Ford doesn't see any competitive advantage from bringing its weight to bear on the problem, why would it do so?

Of course there are ethical dilemmas where the industry concerned makes products related to health and safety. This happens with pharma companies all the time when it comes to places like Africa, who couldn't possibly afford the going rate in the US or Europe. The solution to this is simply to charge a realistic rate everywhere, which might not be the same rate everywhere. But even in this case, again you have to remember that not many people would invest in pharamceuticals if there was no scope for a reasonable ROI, and patents are the guarantee that when significant discoveries are made, that ROI will be forthcoming. Without the catalyst, you risk losing the whole process.

In short, the principle of patents is fine. What's wrong is that they're routinely granted with inadequate checking for obviousness and prior art, they last too long for many industries, once an obvious patent is granted it can be absurdly difficult to get it thrown out, and the costs of patent lawsuits (like any other) are ludicrously prohibitive in some jurisdictions, meaning the little guy can't enforce his own patents, or defend against unjustified patent infringement claims by the big guy. Fix the system so it works properly, and the underlying principle is fine.

Re:Good luck to all you Europeans... (1)

Derkec (463377) | more than 9 years ago | (#12988703)

The patent system, when working properly, is not so bad.

Problem #1 Should be addressed by the existing requirement that the invention not be obvious to a knowledgeable person in that field.

Problem #2 Goes to the heart of the patent system. It is designed to create monopolies that cause higher prices. Getting a temporary monopoly is supposed to be the reward for putting in the R&D to make the invention in the first place.

Let's assume that in your example the Ford invention was truly difficult. Without the incentive of a temporary monopoly they might never invent the magic tires. Not only would the people buying generics die, but so would those who could afford Ford's tires. In practice, most safety inventions in cars are licensed out. I think Volvo makes a chunk of change this way. In your example, everyone can buy good tires at $55 dollars but Ford would get see a couple bucks from every tire made this way.

Frankly, I think patents for software aren't completely stupid, but given the pace at which software moves, a 2-5 year expiration would be more appropriate than the current couple decade set-up.

The basic idea is that we know people (and companies) are usually more greedy than they are nice. To encourage inventions that will make everyone's lives better / safer we try to harness that greed by making inventions valuable as opposed to easily copied and nearly worthless.

More details (4, Informative)

Iphtashu Fitz (263795) | more than 9 years ago | (#12988011)

are available over at Groklaw [groklaw.net] .

Re:More details (2, Informative)

NicklessXed (897466) | more than 9 years ago | (#12988048)

To those of you speaking german, I can only recommend the Spiegel-Article linked on groklaw. It's quite a nice overview imho (don't expect too many details or all the other stuff you are being fed here - Der Spiegel is pretty much mainstream).

Re:More details (-1, Troll)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | more than 9 years ago | (#12988203)

For those who don't know Der Spiegel, it meant "The Mirror". And to those in the UK, yes, it's the same kind of newspaper.

Re:More details (1)

rkit (538398) | more than 9 years ago | (#12988526)

For those who don't know Der Spiegel, it meant "The Mirror". And to those in the UK, yes, it's the same kind of newspaper.

Huh? Der Spiegel is considered a high quality magazine, if there ever was one. Of course they are a bit politically biased, and yes, they are intellectual snobs. But still, their articles are usually very well backed up by recherche.

Re:More details (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12988156)

Please don't link to Jehova's Witness websites from slashdot.

It is sounds too good to be true for me... (1)

Pecisk (688001) | more than 9 years ago | (#12988054)

...but hope dies last. Let's see how it will end.

Re:Have a reality check (1)

sillybilly (668960) | more than 9 years ago | (#12988367)

No such thing. As long as someone has an incentive to keep turning the rocks and not leave the issue alone, it will always be a vigilent struggle.

Haven' t we heard this before? (2, Insightful)

tktk (540564) | more than 9 years ago | (#12988056)

No, it's not a dupe complaint.

...lawmakers do not plan to set forth a new version.

I thought this was the 2nd or 3rd time that software patent directive has come up. How do anyone know that there won't be another version for us to talk about months from now?

Re:Haven' t we heard this before? (4, Informative)

JPMH (100614) | more than 9 years ago | (#12988231)

I thought this was the 2nd or 3rd time that software patent directive has come up. How do anyone know that there won't be another version for us to talk about months from now?
According to the rules, if it gets rejected outright by the Parliament tomorrow, it can't come back for at least three years (if ever).

A more likely eventual route to "harmonisation" allowing software patents could be through decisions of a proposed Community-wide Patent Court, if the EU ever manages to agree to set the thing up.

The CPC has been a long-standing goal of the EU system for a long time.

Re:Haven' t we heard this before? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12988415)

I admit I don't have a 100% solid grasp on the bureaucratic intricacies of the current EU system, but what prevents this from coming back for three more years?

It might not be able to come before Parliament for another three years, but if I'm not mistaken, can't the Commission start work on another patent directive right away?

Killing this directive is dangerous. (5, Insightful)

Gadzinka (256729) | more than 9 years ago | (#12988057)

Killing this directive is very dangerous since pro-patent lobbyists have already stated on record, that they want the directive in current shape or not at all.

If the directive doesn't pass, they can still lobby individual governments.

If the directive passes in castrated form with provisions preventing pure software and business method patents, member countries won't be able to enact legislation permitting it.

So, what we, Europeans, really want is for the directive to pass in a form that once and for all prevents this abomination called software patents to be reborn.

Robert

Re:Killing this directive is dangerous. (4, Insightful)

SLi (132609) | more than 9 years ago | (#12988108)

True. However no directive is arguably a lot better than a bad directive, which really was (and still is) a close call. This way the doors are still open for anti-swpat lobbyists too.

The pro-swpat people actually claim this is only for "harmonisation" of the current system. In a sense they have a point: I think one of the positive outcomes of no directive could be that even between two regimes that allow software patents enforcing them might be somewhat difficult.

Of course a good directive would still be much better than this. But we'll wait and see the result tomorrow.

Re:Killing this directive is dangerous. (1)

Col. Bloodnok (825749) | more than 9 years ago | (#12988115)

So, what we, Europeans, really want is for the directive to pass in a form that once and for all prevents this abomination called software patents to be reborn.

Speak for yourself mate. What I want is an end to my countries involvement in a corrupt and self-serving federal institution, where this sort of crap happens in the first place.

Re:Killing this directive is dangerous. (2, Informative)

cortana (588495) | more than 9 years ago | (#12988258)

An admirable goal, but one that is not compatible with the goal of disallowing pure software patents. Software is already patentable in the UK*. If the amended directive doesn't pass, then we're still fucked, meanwhile the same people behind the EU legislation will quietly lobby the remaining governments of Europe, so that each nation passits its own swpat-enabling laws.

The combined citizenship of the EU is barely able to stave off the CIID. Once the sponsors of the legislation work behind the scenes on individual governments, we'll have no hope.

* possibly making an ASS out of U and ME here

Re:Killing this directive is dangerous. (2, Insightful)

quarkscat (697644) | more than 9 years ago | (#12988248)

Title is incorrect. "Killing this directive is dangerous", but the parent /. poster is not.

One is reminded of the infamous USAG John Ashcroft
quote "In 1000 attempted terrorist attacks, we
must be right 100% of the time. The terrorists
need only be correct once."

Defeating the EU software patent this time is
important, as it must be every time such a bill
reaches the EU ministers. The monopolistic
corporations that sponser such bills need only
be successful once (, and then it passes). The
price of freedom is eternal vigilance!

Re:Killing this directive is dangerous. (1)

orderb13 (792382) | more than 9 years ago | (#12988506)

Ok Mad Eye Moody Sorry man, had to do it, even though I agree with you completely.

pfffft (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12988062)

Personally I am not worried nor do I care.

Re:pfffft (4, Insightful)

Spy der Mann (805235) | more than 9 years ago | (#12988277)

When you're forced to buy $1000 worth of software belonging to a single company (because there's no competition due to patents), you WILL care. But oh, then it will be too late!

Shooting yourself in the foot. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12988072)

I'm kinda interested in who the big backers of this initiative are. Europe is a big player in OSS development, but their commercial software ecosphere seems somewhat lacking. Will large software houses be more likely to do business in europe with their 6 weeks paid vacation and no software patents?

More importantly will this help raise awareness for alternatives (GNU/Linux & Apple)?

Re:Shooting yourself in the foot. (1)

NicklessXed (897466) | more than 9 years ago | (#12988154)

More importantly will this help raise awareness for alternatives (GNU/Linux & Apple)?
No. Why should it? I can't really follow you there...

Re:Shooting yourself in the foot. (1)

SavingPrivateNawak (563767) | more than 9 years ago | (#12988451)

More importantly will this help raise awareness for alternatives (GNU/Linux & Apple)?
No. Why should it? I can't really follow you there...


This "meme" comes from a slashdot story where the poster asked this question out of the blue...

Re:Shooting yourself in the foot. (1)

bjn (168572) | more than 9 years ago | (#12988676)

Microsoft, IBM, Intel, Siemans and ARM are the big names I came across when I was in Brussels last week talking to MEPs.

Give it time... (4, Insightful)

John Seminal (698722) | more than 9 years ago | (#12988074)

The buisness people can and will pass any law they want on demand.

The EU is still new. They have members voting on ideals, and what is best for the people. That will change.

The USA is forcing its' system of government everywhere in the world. Soon, the "people" will elect thier new representatives. And the rich and wealthy businessmen will use their money to advertise candidates who are most favorable to their interests.

As long as money = speech, the people are the ones who will keep getting screwed.

As soon as money is taken out of politics, then people can debate which policy best fits their needs. But as long as 7 million dollars is spent on advterising about how the candidate is an asshole or fear, we are screwed. Can anyone in the USA honestly believe the pharmasutical companies advertising that drugs in Canada are dangerous for consumption in the USA? All the pharmasutical companies want to do is sell the exact same drugs in the USA at much higher prices. But when it comes to politics, there is no requirement that the truth is told.

What will happen in the EU is the powerful and rich will get people into positions of power. It is like the MAFIA. For a long run, they worked the system. They took low level thugs and got them jobs in the police force. They paid for the education of lawyers, and got some elected as judges. Before you knew it, the MAFIA could sell drugs, even if there was a police officer watching. If some good and ethical cop arrested someone the MAFIA wanted to protect, there was a good chance they would get a judge which would throw out the charges.

That is what the rich are doing. They are buying political offices. This will destroy the world, most will be forced in factories, into a slave like exsistance.

Re:Give it time... (1)

NicklessXed (897466) | more than 9 years ago | (#12988099)

I agree with some of the points you are making (influence in politics based on personal wealth etc), but do you not think that your last sentence is taking this more than just a few steps too far? I mean, c'mon... take your tinfoil-hat off...

Re:Give it time... (2, Insightful)

John Seminal (698722) | more than 9 years ago | (#12988305)

I agree with some of the points you are making (influence in politics based on personal wealth etc), but do you not think that your last sentence is taking this more than just a few steps too far? I mean, c'mon... take your tinfoil-hat off...

There is a long history of the rich taking as much as the poor will tolerate. For a while, the USA had factories filled with children working 60 hour weeks, for slave wages. It took an act of Congress to shut down these factories, and only because of massive outrage.

Look at what Bush just did, last year. He did away with many provisions of the overtime law. No longer is a worker garunteed overtime pay if they work more than 40 hours in one week.

And what about companies that require a personality test, or iq test, or credit check for a job, even a job as a janitor.

What about companies like GM that laid off 35,000 people and moved factories to Mexico? Does anyone remember the NAFTA debates of the 1980's? NAFTA was supposed to increase jobs in the USA, to increase pay in the USA, by making trucking between the USA and Mexico easier. Instead, all NAFTA did was take jobs that paid $25 an hour and move them to a place where the same job pays $1.50 an hour. It is not like we are doing Mexico any favors, or giving them good jobs.

Smart people believe their gifts, their intellect entitles them to riches more than anyone else. And not just double or triple, but on a scale where there is no comparison. How much does a business leader, who makes $10,000,000 a year care if the price of gasoline goes from $2 a gallon to $3 a gallon? Yet, for many families, this can create problems.

I'll give you one other example. Property taxes. Say I work for 20 years, and I save up enough money to pay for my modest house, I don't owe anyone anything. I want to retire, I have a very small income, I want to grow food in the backyard. I am pretty good at that, and I like organic foods. One day I get in the mail a $1000 property tax bill. Government is saying they will throw me off my land. Property tax forces the poor to keep working, it is a slavery like force.

The whole system is designed to force people to work.

Re:Give it time... (1)

orderb13 (792382) | more than 9 years ago | (#12988550)

Instead, all NAFTA did was take jobs that paid $25 an hour and move them to a place where the same job pays $1.50 an hour.

Well if the unions hadn't demanded insane slaraies for no/low skill jobs then maybe it wouldn't have been cost effective to move.

Re:Give it time... (1)

dominion (3153) | more than 9 years ago | (#12988310)

Maybe the original poster was being a little dramatic... But maybe not. The devastating effect that globalization has had in pushing the peasantry off of their land and into factories has been pretty easily observed. The ability for corporations to take a decent job in Detroit, lay off thousands, and magically transform that job into an early 20th century sweatshop has also been well documented.

The flaw in the original posters rhetoric is that the first world won't be pushed into factories. We'll be pushed into low wage service jobs, instead. Personally, I think reality's even more dystopian than the original poster intended his rhetoric to be.

Re:Give it time... (4, Interesting)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | more than 9 years ago | (#12988130)

The buisness people can and will pass any law they want on demand. The EU is still new.

Hmm, but all its members have a very long history, and that history weighs on the entire union. It's not like the US, where the country was really made anew, since the settlers decided to break away from the British rule and decided to quietly forgot about the natives' existence when the constitution was made (not counting the French influence).

Besides, look at the russian federation: it too is very new in a sense, much newer than the EU in fact, yet it's corrupt all the way to Putin, and businesses do whatever the hell they want provided they have money and don't step on the prez' toes.

Re:Give it time... (2, Insightful)

bedroll (806612) | more than 9 years ago | (#12988322)

an anyone in the USA honestly believe the pharmasutical companies advertising that drugs in Canada are dangerous for consumption in the USA? All the pharmasutical companies want to do is sell the exact same drugs in the USA at much higher prices. But when it comes to politics, there is no requirement that the truth is told.

I agree that the truth isn't being told about the pharmaceutical industry to the public. The thing is that they have tried telling the story in the past and the public doesn't want to listen. The US has some of the strictest drug testing policies in the world. Due to these policies it's very expensive to get a drug approved for use in the US. In response to this the pharmaceuticals charge US citizens the lions share of the research cost.

Other countries have far less constricting rules, and those countries get meds that can't be sold in the US and aren't forced to pay for US require research.

So what does buying drugs cheaper from Canada do? Well the net result should be that the US will inflate the cost of drugs for the entire world. The pharmaceuticals will be forced to start charging higher prices to the rest of the world to certify drugs in the US. Certifying drugs for use in the US will become an expensive and unneccessary task that most companies will pobably stop bothering to do.

Certainly there are problems with the pharmaceutical industry, but allowing US citizens to purchase drugs from countries more lenient is probably not the solution.

Before I get modded horribly off-topic...
The point is that sometimes there's not just the simple answer that it must be the rich trying to make themselves richer. Sometimes it really is people trying to do the right thing.

In this case, there's a good deal of people involved that want software patents in the EU because they just want to get richer. There's also bound to be those out there that are passionate that "intellectual property" should be strongly protected. There's a lot of people who see the abuses of the USPTO system as a good thing, morally and financially. Obviously we disagree, but it's hardly justification to paint them all as soulless overlords conspiring to commit crimes against humanity.

Re:Give it time... (1)

Bullfish (858648) | more than 9 years ago | (#12988427)

The irony is that a lot of the drugs sold in the US are manufactured in Canada to begin with. I live in Winnipeg and just thirty miles southwest of the city is the Biovail plant that makes all the Viagra that's sold in North America. They also make a lot of anti-depressants and other drugs that are sold throughout the continent.

Re:Give it time... (1)

kb7oeb (543726) | more than 9 years ago | (#12988478)

The other countries benefit so why should the US pay all of it? People are talking about being able to buy the exact same drug from another country not untested ones.

The other thing that happened is congress made it illegal for medicare to negotiate prices with the drug companies. Its all part of the Prescription Drug card scam that the "fiscal" conservatives forced through.

Re:Give it time... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12988410)

That may not happen.

See, the problem in the USA is that congressmen and parties are allowed to receive money from whoever wants to give some. This is a legalized form of corruption.

In some countries in Europe, this is forbidden. Politicians are not allowed to receive money from anyone and electoral campaigns are financed by the state. This makes really harder for corporation to push a law.

So, there is still hope that EU will follow the right path.

Re:Give it time... (3, Insightful)

MenTaLguY (5483) | more than 9 years ago | (#12988553)

The EU is still new. They have members voting on ideals, and what is best for the people. That will change.

I dunno. The impression I've gotten from watching this EU software patents thing play out over the past year or so is that it's already happened.

The EU MPs vote on ideals. Sometimes. When their arms are twisted. Then the EC blatantly ignores them. Also, every once and a while the MPs will vote to explicitly cede a little more power to the EC.

The checks on the EC's power are diminishing with time, and it's the EC that's already stuffed with folks beholden to business interests.

However, except to the extent that US businesses are involved, I don't think it's fair to blame the US for this. The US didn't determine the structure of the EU, and issues of corruption are universal. The US could drop off the face of the earth, tomorrow, and your analysis of the weaknesses of representative democracy in the media age would still hold.

But ... nor do I think it is appropriate to blame representative democracy per se; elected MPs have been the sole (if inconsistent) hedge against the unelected EC which has been trying to repeatedly hammer through software patents. The biggest failings of the EU government to serve the needs of its people (versus businses) appear to be in its least representative-democratic portions.

Out of curiousity, if it were up to you alone, what system of government would you choose for Europe?

All in Europe say NI! (4, Funny)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | more than 9 years ago | (#12988096)

NI! NI!

Your proposed law was a hamster, and software patents smell of elderberries. Now go away or I shall taunt you a second taah-me.

European (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12988102)

These days I'm proud to be an European...

Re:European (0)

nogginthenog (582552) | more than 9 years ago | (#12988684)

Is that you Mr Bush?

exposes the lie (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12988122)

Commisioner McCreevy has basically threatened to scrap everything if parliament amends the councils text. The Rocard-Duff ammendments calarify the bill, codifying the stated aims of the pro-swpat lobby.

First the patent lobby fuck with the democratic process and force a mysteriously uncommon 'common position', then they complain when parliament looks like passing ammendments that give them what they /say/ they wanted all along.

This is a democracy, if the losers in industry or the EU commision don't like it they can go and live elsewhere.

Thankyou for playing.

A hounding from the Well-Connected at 4AM CET. (2, Insightful)

hwstar (35834) | more than 9 years ago | (#12988129)

I feel sorry for the MEP's as the well-connected call them on the phone in the wee hours of the morning to try and persuade them not to vote against the bill.

If this is rejected then I have a paraphrase from Star Wars Eposode IV: "Don't underestimate the lobbyists, they'll be back and in greater numbers"

Re:A hounding from the Well-Connected at 4AM CET. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12988285)

We don't want it rejected, we want the bill amended so that it does what industry PR spin pretends it was intended to do. We want Art 52 of the EPC made less ambiguous, we want the lies, disinformation and double-speak to cease. We want the freedom to create innovative software without being bullied by an industry cartel.

adios corporate america (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12988134)

if eu rejects this, i'm relocating my business to europe.

6 new jobs over there is a pittance, but an eu WITHOUT software patents is where i want to do business.

adios corporate america.

Re:adios corporate america (0, Troll)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | more than 9 years ago | (#12988237)

if eu rejects this, i'm relocating my business to europe.

I think you'll think it over when you see the taxes rate over there. Not to mention strict labor laws and unions.

You should consider Eire. It's not in the EU and it's business-friendly.

Re:adios corporate america (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12988288)

Um. What? Eire may be "business friendly" (read: corrupt as hell), but we are definitely IN the EU, right down to the silly monopoly money.

Re:adios corporate america (1)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | more than 9 years ago | (#12988314)

Oh oops, sorry about that, I didn't know that. I thought only Northern Ireland was, as part of the UK.

Re:adios corporate america (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12988453)

You really should check these things before giving advice like that. Trying to sound knowledgeable when you clearly don't have a clue makes you look really stupid!

Re:adios corporate america (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12988400)

Come on...
After all you were the poor house of Europe and became one of the wealthiest nations. It's not all bad.

Re:adios corporate america (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12988612)

A small % of our population is now very wealthy. I'm actually poorer in terms of relative purchasing power than I was in the 1980s in Ireland.

Re:adios corporate america (1)

timbrown (578202) | more than 9 years ago | (#12988335)

That's funny, these guys [eu.int] seem to believe Ireland is part of the EU [eu.int] .

Re:adios corporate america (1)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | more than 9 years ago | (#12988360)

Yep, my bad. I stand corrected.

Re:adios corporate america (1)

CodeArtisan (795142) | more than 9 years ago | (#12988407)

You should consider Eire. It's not in the EU and it's business-friendly.

*Not* in the EU ? So the EU subsidies Eire wisely used to stimulate its economy, not to mention its switch to the Euro, were just scams ? Those sneaky Irish buggers !

Re:adios corporate america (1)

chemistry (876982) | more than 9 years ago | (#12988316)

I think that I might have to give serious consideration to moving my business as well. My company is small and would go unoticed as an addition to Europe or as a removal from the US. Howver if enough small companies actually did move to the EU then a pretty strong message would be sent to the USA. After all it is usaully small businesses the help turn around bad economic times with new inovations etc.

Is this a good or a bad thing? (3, Insightful)

KnightTristan (882222) | more than 9 years ago | (#12988136)

On one hand it is a good thing, but on the other if there's not gonna be a new revised legislation that prohibits software patents, that still leaves the door open for each country to _allow_ software patents.

So MEPs, try harder!

Tristan.

Wait a minute, is this bill good? (1)

MobyDisk (75490) | more than 9 years ago | (#12988143)

The bill stops short of the U.S. system that allows patenting of business methods or computer programs such as Amazon.com Inc.'s "one-click" shopping technique, which gives consumers a quick system to buy goods on its Web site.
I always thought this measure was just like the US one that allows the crazy patents. Maybe it isn't evil after all.
The bill -- which would extend patent protection to computer programs when the software is used in the context of realizing inventions...
Wait, that sounds logical. I was against this because the US passed a law allowing obvious, simple, and non-technological things to be patented. But it sounds like the EU measure doesn't include that. Was this bill always this way, or did it morph into something reasonable as a result of the grassroots lobbying efforts. If so, maybe it is time to say that this measure is okay. Can someone tell me if I'm missing something?

Re:Wait a minute, is this bill good? (4, Insightful)

Znork (31774) | more than 9 years ago | (#12988286)

"I always thought this measure was just like the US one that allows the crazy patents."

It is. The trouble is that the pro-SW patent lobbyist claim to not want SW patents, as saying they want them would make their position hopeless. The major proponents have been linked time after time with organisations that have _no_ interest outside software or business method patents.

So instead they claim they dont want software patents, then turn around and lobby against any changes that would ban software patents. If, at any time, they're confronted on this inconsistency they ignore, avoid the question or divert the subject.

"Can someone tell me if I'm missing something?"

Indeed, yes, you are.

"If so, maybe it is time to say that this measure is okay."

And there you have the reason. The exact target response the obfuscation is intended to create.

It's hard to tell the difference, even for people who've followed the debate for years on end, so it's no wonder that people fall for it.

Legal Scenarios (1)

sapgau (413511) | more than 9 years ago | (#12988160)

So assuming that the European Union adopts a more "lenient" patent law, what will happen when American companies start suing europeans because they are "violating" their god like patents?

We all know that Americans are not liable on international courts but they can sure drag anyone they wish to their courts so they can get "justice" done.

The only solution is for foreign firms to license their technology/services to whatever bully is enforcing the most patents. Look at the current situation with RIM and their blackberry.

/by the way, did not RTFA.

Re:Legal Scenarios (4, Interesting)

Flyboy Connor (741764) | more than 9 years ago | (#12988585)

So assuming that the European Union adopts a more "lenient" patent law, what will happen when American companies start suing europeans because they are "violating" their god like patents?

It depends. Suppose a European firm tries to sell a product in the US that violates some US software patent. Then the firm can be sued in the US. Or, if a European firm has a subsidiary in the US which produces software that violates a US software patent, even if the product is meant for the European market. Again, the firm can be sued in the US. However, as long as the firm is located outside the US, and does not export to the US, it is basically safe (except maybe for a "nukular" threat, but I suppose not even W will go that far).

The funny thing is that a European firm that develops a "new" software concept might get it patented in the US. The net result, without software patents in Europe, is that in Europe many competing businesses might create products based on this "idea", while in the US there will be only one firm that is allowed to sell this product. Imagine what will happen to the price and quality of such a product. I expect that US citizens will get mightly jealous of the great software Europeans are allowed to use for little money, while the US is stuck with one piece of expensive crap. Maybe then the US will get rid of its software patents.

Thank God... (1)

SeekerDarksteel (896422) | more than 9 years ago | (#12988205)

I'm in America, where we don't have to deal with our government trying to implement software patents... er..wait a minute... damnit.

I hope I can sleep tonight.. (1)

Niekie (884742) | more than 9 years ago | (#12988209)

Now seriously.. Allowing software patents in the EU will be a bad move.
It will take freedom of people to freely distribute their own software only due to an element of it beïng "patented".
This will seriously hamper the opensource community, something I have serious respect for.

Re:I hope I can sleep tonight.. (1)

daniil (775990) | more than 9 years ago | (#12988301)

So are you saying that the open source community are not capable of coming up with anything new (ie a solution that hasn't been patented) then?

Re:I hope I can sleep tonight.. (1)

Niekie (884742) | more than 9 years ago | (#12988320)

Of course not, but it will make it harder for them though.. and solutions that are already patented by others won't be improvable be the community..

Re:I hope I can sleep tonight.. (2, Funny)

NicklessXed (897466) | more than 9 years ago | (#12988339)

This will seriously hamper the opensource community, something I have serious respect for.

Seriously, man, you can't be serious.

Wait! The headline is wrong (5, Insightful)

Klact-oveeseds-tene (780969) | more than 9 years ago | (#12988210)

What would be rejected is the proposed EU directive harmonizing the national laws on software patents. Even without such a law, thousands of software patents have been granted by the European Patent Office, by bending the exclusion of the patentability of "software as such". Judges are likely to interpret the law similarly.

Software patents do exist in Europe and the only way to make them invalid is a directive that effectively excludes software from patentability. So the rejection of the proposed (pro-softpat) text does not really solve the problem.

Re:Wait! The headline is wrong (1)

ragoutoutou76 (832439) | more than 9 years ago | (#12988581)

"Software patents do exist in Europe" yes, but illegally Let's just get sure no law claim s they are legal and they'll stay illegal...

I wish to let you all know... (1)

IcyNeko (891749) | more than 9 years ago | (#12988342)

That I have patented the concept of oxygen-to-carbon dioxide conversion, and also the concept of human lifespan limitation and the entropy that comes along with it. Though I am not Germany, I wish to allow you all to know that you have all violated my patents and copyrights and unless you pay me royalties, I will sue you. :D

about software patents (3, Insightful)

N3wsByt3 (758224) | more than 9 years ago | (#12988384)

Manifesto on the directive of "computer implemented inventions"

Dear MEP,

As you are probably well aware, soon the EU parliament will have a 'second reading' of the directive for allowing patents on "computer implemented inventions", which, as I will show below, actually amount to allowing software patents (swpat), though this is heavily disputed and denied by the proponents of the directive, including the European Commission (EC).

The way in which this directive has gone through the EU Council of ministers is mind boggling and shows exactly how much the EU has a democratic deficit. Despite the fact there was no real majority for the draft any more (the change in vote-weight after the enlargement alone accomplished that, apart from a lot of change of minds of some other countries), despite the fact that stringent motions of national parliaments were passed to oblige the national ministers to redraw the proposal as an A-item so that it may be further discussed, despite the fact that the EU parliament and their JURY-commission asked for a new first (re)reading with almost unanimity, the EC chose to ignore and disregard all this, while giving no explanation, apart from "for institutional reasons as to not create a precedent". In other words, the "common position" had to be followed, even though there was no common position any more, because, apparently, the form is more important then the facts.

This is a stupefying prime example of absurd bureaucratic reasoning and mentality; to give more importance to formality, and to place appearances before the changing facts. Bureaucracy abhors changes, even to the detriment of real democratic values. But then again, maybe this shouldn't surprise us, as the EC is exactly that: bureaucrats, whom were never voted into the position they occupy, yet create laws that could potentially influence millions of EU citizens (to which they do not have to answer to). The EU constitution leaves this democratic deficit as it is, alas. And as seen by the handling of this directive, the deficit is pretty huge.[1]

I will not go further into the procedural mess and the apparent disrespect of the EC for the EU parliament, but rather concentrate on the different aspects of the directive itself (content). I will do this by stating, and then debunking, the rather dubious claims and arguments made by the pro-directive camp, which, alas, also include some misguided MEPs - though I haste myself to say the large majority of the EU parliament is well aware of the facts, as can be readily seen by the amendments made in the first reading.

The following statements for why it is necessary to have the (current) directive is as follows:

1)It is necessary for the stimulation and development of new software, so that IT-companies can be innovative to the fullest of their potential.

2)It is necessary for the stimulation of EU software business, so we can effectively compete on the world-market.

3)It is needed for the harmonisation of the internal market, and to retain the status quo. (Similar as the "we do not change the current practise" or the "it will avoid drifting towards US-style patentability" -argument).

I will now debunk all these arguments (sources mentioned at the end of the document) in a rational and clear way, instead of all the FUD currently being made by many of the softwarepatents (swpat) proponents.

1)It is necessary for the stimulation and development of new software, so that IT-companies can be innovative to the fullest of their potential.

First of all, we have to ask ourselves, what, exactly, a patent is. A lot of pro-swpat advocates use terms as Intellectual Property (IP) rights, while those encompass a lot of different concepts, such as copyright (which is already used for software). We can find the following definition:

A patent is a set of exclusive rights granted by a government to an inventor or applicant for a limited amount of time (normally 20 years from the filing date)... Per the word's original definition, the theory of patent legislation is to induce the inventor to disclose knowledge for the advancement of society in exchange for a limited period of exclusivity. Since a patent grants the right to exclude others from practising the invention, it gives the owner a monopoly in the economic sense. There is an ongoing debate about whether the benefits of patents outweigh the costs, particularly with respect to software patents.

A patent, thus, is not meant as an inherent right for financial compensation for the inventor. A patent is a state-ordained monopoly, that excludes others of exploiting or using similar ideas, even when they have come up with those ideas independently by themselves, for a certain time-period. Now, this seems rather unfair (in copyright this is not the case), but apart from that, why does the state give a monopoly to someone, while we all know monopolies are generally not good for the economy, nor for the consumers? This is why: a patent is a monopoly, given by the state, because it (is supposed to) promote innovation. It follows that, if it doesn't achieve its goal of promoting innovation, it should not be granted, period.

Now, while to some extend this may apply to patents in general (as a study done in the 80ies by the Australian government has shown), seen the particular incremental nature of software, and the more intensive studies done on them, it has become ever more clear that softwarepatents DO NOT promote innovation, on the contrary. It logically follows there is no compelling reason in respect to 'stimulating innovation' to grant patents on software.

Some swpat-proponents point to the USA, and claim there the evidence is shown: "the USA has swpat, and look at all those big, mighty IT-corporations!" This, however, is a complete fallacy: they 'forget' to mention that all those big foreign IT-companies were founded and grew to the behemoths they are today, in the ABSENCE of softwarepatents (which, in the USA, only started in earnest after 1991). So, it is not "thanks to" softwarepatents, but rather the reverse. Actually, it could be argued that the IT-business in the USA bloomed, exactly because they weren't patents around, back then. And in fact, this is well known by anyone working in the business of IT, and exactly what a well-known USA CEO has said in the early 90ies, someone who can know it.

Bill Gates said it best, in one of his internal memos:

"If people had understood how patents would be granted when most of today's ideas were invented and had taken out patents, the industry would be at a complete standstill today."

Mind you, this has been said by one of the most prominent IT-CEO on the planet, acknowledging exactly what softwarepatents actually lead too. Not surprisingly, since swpat are allowed in the USA, his solution to the problem was "patenting as much as we can" so he could go for "patent exchanges with [other] large companies". Of course, Bill had the means to gather together a multi-million dollar software patent portfolio to defend his company (and thus did.) Most of the SME's (Small and Medium-sized Enterprises), let alone the individual developer, don't have such means and allowing swpat can only spell hardship for small businesses and open source software in Europe. Already there are over 30,000 patents that have been granted in the EU, waiting for this bill to pass so that they can be enforced.
Even Bruce Chizen, chief executive of Adobe Systems Inc. and chairman of the Business Software Alliance, which is leading the charge for the technology industry in the USA, acknowledges that allowing software patents in the 1990s was a bad idea.

How comes, when Bill and Bruce can see it so clearly, that the EC is unable to see the apparent disastrous consequences of allowing swpat (or a badly written directive that leads to the same)? Luckily, the EU parliament (you) can remediate this.

Contrary to the pro-swpat camp, it is also possible to refer you to several independent studies and researchpapers, which show, time and again, that softwarepatents do not stimulate, but rather inhibit innovation. See appendix A for more info about these studies, some of which clearly indicate that a large part of the money and investment that used to go to R&D, now goes to the legal departments of the companies (in the USA), to fend of lawsuits or to sue others.

2)It is necessary for the stimulation of EU software business, so we can effectively compete on the world-market.

Alas, this also isn't true. First of all, this isn't true in a broad sense: since innovation isn't stimulated by swpat, one can hardly claim the economy, in the long term, will not suffer also. This is also shown in some of the studies in appendix A, to give a quote:

"Bessen & Hunt show that strategic, anticompetitive and defensive use of patents tends to concentrate in software patents, because they are easier to obtain (they don't require experimentation or prototyping, not even writing a program). They are also broader, because software is not subject to physical constraints and can therefore be composed into more complex systems, potentially infringing on hundreds of patents per program. This causes a patent buildup similar to a cold war arms race that discourages innovation and competition, and instead of bringing new products to consumers, reduces their choice and their access to information society, resulting in significant costs and less productivity for businesses. "

This also hints at the common practise of using softwarepatents: they serve no innovative purpose, but are 'stockpiled' by companies in a defensive manner. These are called portfolios, and big foreign companies like Microsoft and IBM now have tenthousands of swpat in their portfolio, which they use for 'swapping' with each other if they have to come to an agreement, and blocking new players on the market by smothering them with patent-infringements. Obviously, SME's and individual sw-developers do not possess the money, nor the legal strength to compete with the already established, huge swpat-portfolios. Since more then 80% of the workforce in Europe comes from SME's, and not from monolithic companies as in the USA and Japan, it is not difficult to understand what is most beneficial for Europe. This is reflected in the 30.000 patents the EPO already illegally granted (and which this directive would effectively legalise); more of 70% of those patents are of foreign companies, directly, or by proxy. The ones most benefiting from swpat, thus, are huge (mostly foreign) megacorporations, so-called 'leech-corporations' (corporations who produce nothing, design nothing, contribute nothing, but amass swpat without any intent of actually doing something with it except suing others and profit from continuous litigiousness), and patent lawyers (for the obvious reason). [2]

The big companies using software patents will be constantly trying to increase the size of their software patent empire, so the only way to compete with this is for other giant companies to enter a cold-war style arms race with other companies from which only super-powers will emerge victorious. This is a very anti-competitive environment and very destructive to innovation and small business.

But also in a more strict sense, it makes no sense for Europe (specifically) to allow softwarepatents in Europe to have a competitive edge on the worldmarket (which is one of the goals of the Lisbon-agenda). This is a fallacy where many, even MEPs who have studied the matter like Maria Allessandra Rossi - though she also made some valuable suggestions - fall for on face value and think it is an advantage for Europe.

However - and I can't stress this enough:

Patents are NOT applied to where the invention is made, but where the patent is filed.

Logic dictates, thus, that EU-corporations *CAN ALREADY* file and 'protect' their IP on the worldmarket: the only thing for that to happen is that they file their patent abroad, in countries where they have been stupid enough to allow them, such as the USA and Japan. But EU companies *are* protected in the EU (if swpat remain invalid here) against the typical smothering of big foreign companies with huge portfolios.

In every sense, and even only speaking economically without looking at the other reasons not to allow swpat, thus, the EU has a clear economic advantage. WE can sue others, but we can't be sued by others over swpat. For the EU as whole, it becomes apparent that this is very beneficial, maybe to the point where other countries will be forced to abandon their swpat-mentality too, because otherwise they will be in a inherent disadvantage.

Now, it remains puzzling why many people don't seem to get this. A lot of IP-proponents seem to go the way of 'our IP has to be protected' , but - ignoring all other valid considerations not to allow swpat - the irony is, even purely focussing on the economics, the EU is better off NOT having them in the EU, but still being able to apply them abroad.

It seems strange the EU (at least the EC), which in first instance has to look at the best interest of Europe and its citizens, would try to pass a law to "level the playing field" (as some US patentlawyers have said) in the worldmarket, so as to allow foreign megacorporations to sue SMEs into oblivion here too and eliminating the economical advantage we currently have on the international market, compared to those countries that DO allow swpat. So because the USA made the mistake to allow swpat, we should make the same mistake, and loose the economic advantage we currently have compared to them?

3)It is needed for the harmonisation of the internal market, and to retain the status quo. (Similar as the "we do not change the current practise" or the "it will avoid drifting towards US-style patentability" -argument).

The need for harmonisation was actually the first and foremost reason offered by the EC for the directive. This is a noble goal, but one has to ask oneself why it is not possible to harmonise equally as well with a law that explicitly forbids softwarepatents and clearly restricts the applicability (as with the amendments you - the EU parliament - did in first reading), then when using an ambiguous directive like the current one. Harmonisation is as well served (if not better) with a clear no, then with an ambiguous "no, but actually yes".

Now, of course, the EC till now has claimed their form of the directive is as clear as it needs to be - even when it is plain obvious that the restrictions they place are purely for the form (as, as I have said, is typical of bureaucrats and the system they work in). The claim that it maintains the 'status quo' of the guideline of 1973 which said "software as such can not be patented" is ludicrous; in the current proposal, it comes down to:

[A] is not patentable, unless [B] is met.

where [B] is (upon close scrutiny) always met

In this case, it is claimed that software can not be patented, unless there is a technical effect...but what is a technical effect? According to the EC, a technical effect is an effect of a technical nature... this is a tautology and does not explain a thing, rather leaves it to be interpreted as one wishes, much as the EPO "creatively" interpreted the "software as such" clause of 1973. The absence of a real physical effect that involves the laws of nature (as proposed in the amendments of the parliament) were and are detrimental, yet the EC chooses to ignore that. Instead the EC prefers to play with words as in; swpat are not allowed for "normal physical interaction between a program and the computer" - but this means absolutely nothing and is legally nonsensical. It is a magic formula whose usage can be inferred only from recent decisions of the EPO, in which it served to justify the granting of patents on geometrical calculation rules to IBM. In the present case, according to the EPO, the "further technical effect beyond ..." consisted in the economisation of space on a computer screen. As can be seen by that example, it is trivially easy to portray any program as a 'process' with some sort of "technical effect", if the technical effect can be almost anything. It is akin to saying "music can't be patented, unless it is played on instruments or devices": in every practical sense, you DO make music patentable, then.

There is need (a vital one) for a more restrictive meaning to the EPO wording, for instance based on a recent German court decision which held that economisation of computing resources does not constitute a "technical contribution", because otherwise practically all computer-implemented business methods would become patentable subject matter. Since the EC refuses to do this, it is clear that the EC wants to make "computer-implemented" algorithms and business methods patentable in accordance with recent EPO practise, even though they refute it as a lip-service. In any case, when passed as it is now, it WILL have that effect, as is easily demonstrated by the fact that all patent-lawyers actually agree it will allow softwarepatents and one is hard-pressed to find a swpat that would not be allowed and granted, with the current wording. In fact, when the Polish government had the text examined by their legal departments, these confessed it would, in practise, lead to the allowance of all sorts of software, including business-methods portrayed as processes. Yet, somehow, the EC still seems to think they know it better, and hold on to their misplaced dogmatic viewpoint that it provides adequate limitations, where there are, in reality, none.

Conclusion:

To allow the directive as it stands now to become law, would be disastrous for the innovation of the IT-sector in the long term, and for the economy of the EU, which exist largely of SME's. It would seriously undermine the ability of SME's and individual developers to actually produce anything, without the lingering threat and danger of a large foreign company with thousands of patents, ready to sue. These effects are denied by the swpat proponents, and are refuted by saying it's only doomsday-talk of Open Source extremists, but in fact, it is based on scientific research, as can be seen in Appendix A.

It also makes no sense to allow swpat in Europe, with the excuse of making them more competitive on the worldmarket, since patents can already be asked and granted in those countries that have been foolish enough to allow them. Foreign countries can not sue for swpat here: this gives an inherent economical advantage to European corporations, and especially SME's, which don't have the resources and financial possibilities to ward off legal attacks, and - due to the high legal costs - would probably be bankrupt (even when being fully in their right), long before the courts would make a final decision. As a whole, our ability to compete on the world market will not become stronger, but weaker, when softwarepatents are allowed in our internal market, since those profiting the most of such a law are big (foreign) companies with huge portfolios. More then 80% of EU businesses are SME's however - thus, one fails to see any logic in allowing swpat. SME's, btw, overwhelmingly are against softwarepatents. (polls indicate 70-80% of EU IT businesses are against it, which makes one wonder who it is when proponents say 'industry wants it').

Finally, the current proposal does nothing for harmonisation or preventing a drift towards USA-style patents, as is claimed by the EC. Instead, it excels in ambiguity and doubletalk, while creatively playing with terminology that must insinuate there are clear limitations, when there are, in fact, none. Claiming that it will merely consolidate the 'status quo' is equally bogus; the current status is, that software patents are not allowed; but because of the ambiguity in the 'as such' clause, the interpretations of national courts were contradictory, and the EPO (and now the EC) is apparently of the opinion it is 'following current practise' to allow softwarepatents (even when, at the same time, maintaining it doesn't).

For all those reasons, I ask you, a MEP and therefore - regardless of political colour or nationality - the direct (and, I may add, in the EU only) representative of its citizens, to amend the proposal of the EC in the same lines as the EU parliament already did in the first reading. [3] That amended proposal was the strict minimum to assure that we have a good directive, therefore, if it ever gets to the 'conciliation procedure' with the EC, and the basic tenets (such as the technical effect) is watered down again, it is better to outright reject the proposal. Better no law then a bad law, after all. And there are more then enough reasons not to allow the standing draft.[4]

I know not all MEPs do their work with the same vigour, but I implore you, since this is of the utmost importance to get it right, and seen the fact there is a high majority needed in the second reading to amend or reject the EC proposal, to go and vote on the matter, even when it is difficult within your agenda to find time. I assure you, this is worth all the effort and time it needs; even if it were only to show that democracy and not bureaucracy has the final word in the EU legislative process, it would still be worthwhile.

I don't care... I don't trust... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12988430)

...if this legislation fails they'll come with another one where they exchange "Software Patents" just with "We-Fsck-You Patents" and there will be again a generated inflation of new, newer and latest petitions distorting peoples opinions and everything will start from the beginning with my european-lobbywhore-union while everyone outsources Software development to China - Land of the free developer.

coincidence? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12988448)

Is it by pure chance that the vote takes place the same day as the G8, when people have other things on their mind?

It's visual terrorism... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12988464)

Reject software patents, or soon all websites on Earth will have bright yellow backgrounds with large blue text! Do not resist, or we will burn out your eyes!! Bwa ha ha!!!

FFS he works for American corporate interests! (2, Interesting)

NigelJohnstone (242811) | more than 9 years ago | (#12988618)

"Two other European legislators from Germany who have favored stronger software-patent protections also have industry ties. One works with another top patent-law firm, and another sits on the board of U.S. software giant Veritas Software Corp. and holds options to buy 85,416 shares of Veritas stock, according to U.S. securities filings."

How on earth do we end up with a legislator that not only has outside interests, but outside American interests?

Steady On (2, Interesting)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 9 years ago | (#12988671)

Keep up the pressure, Euros. If you keep intellectual assets clear of the antiquated shackles of American-style Intellectual Property, more inventors will work in your more-favorable environment. That could provide Americans leverage to reform our broken system. If you fail, it's another nail in everyone's coffin. Yep, I said "pressure".
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