Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Europe Says No to Software Patents

Florian Mueller of No Software Patents has an interesting take on the EU Parliament's rejection of the proposed EU software patent directive at EUobserver.com: "The net said no to patent directive".

Mueller observes that the pro-patent camp was extremely powerful politically and monetarily. But as Mueller writes:

"Still our side was ultimately able to win. David had a slingshot when he fought Goliath, the Gauls had the magic potion to beat the Romans to a pulp in the Asterix books, and we had the internet.

With the same resource disadvantage ten years ago, we would not have had a prayer."

The law pundit has been aligned with the "no software patents" side for years (see the FFII) and is thus happy to be on the winning side on this one.

Mueller isolates the main argument that we always raised against software patents as follows:

"I always want to know that if I independently create a piece of software, I will surely be entitled to sell it.

The way the patent system works, that ownership (which most professions take for granted) is not guaranteed.

You can spend years on a project, but if somebody previously registered some key functionality at the patent office, then it does not count that you have actually not stolen anything. You are at the mercy of the patent holder, period."

See in this connection some examples of "patented software", or software patents generally.

Under existing copyright laws, you can still not "steal" software code, that is clear, but you can now program software freely and creatively [in the European Union] without worrying that some feature or method has been patented somewhere by someone at some time.

See in this regard our previous postings on software patents, e.g., FTC Report on Patents, AT&T eBay and PayPal, Amazon, Microsoft & Eolas 1, Microsoft and Eolas 2, USPTO and Eolas, overly broad patents, patents on spam technology, the patent invasion, etc.

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