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Softwarepioniere gegen EU-Patentplaene


(wird noch auf www.eurolinux.org gespiegelt)


                        10 European Industry Leaders
                   Raise Concerns about Software Patents
                             EuroLinux Alliance
                                AFUL, Paris
                                APRIL, Paris
                               FFII, München
                           _For immediate release_
   _10 European Industry Leaders have raised concerns about the ongoing
   legal process to update the European Patent Law in order to extend the
   range of application of software patents. According to pioneers of the
   software industry, the use of patents to protect software may actually
   lead to less innovation, less competition and eventually job cuts in
   the European Software Industry instead of generating new businesses
   and stimulating innovation as it is often believed. In order to
   promote innovation, competition and new businesses in the IT industry,
   Europe should be very careful with the application of software
   Although article 52.2c of the München Convention states that, in
   Europe, programmes for computers are not patentable, the European
   Patent Office (EPO) has been granting for the last 10 years an
   increasing number of patents that can be used to protect programming
   techniques, computer programmes and software. What may sound as
   contradictory at first sight, is actually perfectly legal since
   article 53 of München Convention makes it possible to patent
   industrial inventions which are based on innovative programming
   techniques. Such patents are sometimes called "software patents"
   because they protect software even though they are not patents on
   software as such.
   Software Patents granted by the EPO to protect programming techniques
   were very few 10 years ago and were mainly used by large industrial
   corporations to protect, for example, computerized oil exploration
   techniques. In such cases, it was quite reasonable both in terms of
   contents and in terms of economic efficiency. However, the EPO
   jurisprudence has evolved a lot under the continuous pressure of
   lawyers and patent experts who have been trying to patent in Europe
   what they could already patent in the USA. One must remember that the
   US patent law allows to patent anything "useful and non obvious"
   which, according to the US Supreme Court, may include business methods
   and mathematical methods whereas in Europe, only inventions which have
   "industrial application" are patentable.
   But this difference in terms of law was not sufficient to protect
   Europe from the abuse of software patents, as it is already the case
   in the United States where, according to Luc Hatlestad in Red Herring,
   "Industry leaders are putting startup through legal hell - and
   dampening innovation". The recent case of IBM patent application No
   96305851.6 shows that the EPO is now used to grant patents on
   extremely elementary, if not obvious, programming techniques for which
   patenting has no macroeconomic rationale. Since patents last 20 years,
   and because the WTO TRIPS agreements do let them last less, the whole
   European Software Industry may get paralysed.
   The following opinions were expressed by European Industry pioneers
   who call for a more careful use of Software Patents.
   According to Ralf Schoebel of Intradat, creator of the first
   professional electronic commerce solution for Linux and inventor of an
   innovative electronic commerce programming language, "there are so
   many new patentable programming techniques emerging every day in the
   software industry that it is really impossible to keep up to date". As
   a consequence, "any large software package is likely to infringe
   dozens of software patents held by companies such as IBM or Lucent"
   says Tatu Ylönen, Founder and CEO of SSH Communications Security Ltd,
   and author of the popular SSH (Secure Shell) software, a proposed IETF
   standard. Jean Ferré, CEO of ARISEM, makers of very innovative
   indexing and searching software, adds that "it is impossible to manage
   a development process in which one has to check for each algorithm
   used in a software whether royalties should be paid to someone else".
   Frank Hoen, CEO of NetPresenter and first inventor of Internet push
   technology, thinks that "patents on software are potentially very
   damaging to SMEs". According to him, "Europe is already lagging behind
   in software development. If developers now also need to worry about
   software patents, Europe will fallback even further". And Haavard
   Nord, CEO of Troll Tech, makers of the Qt advanced frameworks declares
   that he is "strongly against software patents because they prevent
   competition and make life harder for small and medium businesses"
   while Ismael Ghalimi, CEO of ExOffice, providers of advanced Java/XML
   technologies in open source, is in general "strongly against any form
   of patent for software technology".
   Software Patents also have negative impact on standardisation. In
   France, Senator Laffitte claims that "Governments should not use
   patented standards to exchange information with citizens" since that
   would contradict the principle of free access to the public
   information defined by the French Law. And in a meeting organised by
   ISOC France during the Internet Fiesta at the French Senate, a
   consensus of specialists agreed that "Patents on Internet standards
   should be free or banned".
   Together with Linus Torvalds, AFUL, FFII and the EuroLinux Alliance
   for a Free Information Infrastructure consider that "patents as they
   stand now are a real problem". The general opinion, best summarised by
   Michael Widenius, coordinator of the widely awarded MySQL commercial
   database, is that "Software patents are more harmful than useful". M.
   Ylönen adds that "Innovation in information technology would be best
   served without software patents". And ISOC France stated in its yearly
   meeting in Autrans, "the European Law should not accept patents on
   software unless it is proved that patents do efficiently protect
   innovation, competition and free software".
   However, the 19 European member States of the European Convention on
   Patents are considering to further extend the application of software
   patents by removing programmes for computers from the list of
   exceptions in article 52.2c of the München convention. Such a move
   would dramatically increase the risks taken by software editors which
   could be sued directly for patent infringement instead of indirectly
   as it is the case now. It would also open the way to a new kind of
   patent : Electronic Commerce and Business Method Patents.
   A detailed case study shows that it would be possible to use patents
   to get a monopoly on the use of a business method or an electronic
   commerce method by patenting as such its implementation in a programme
   for computers. As an example of what this would mean, US citizens who
   are selling books on the Internet are being increasingly approached by
   US lawyers who claim that they are infringing some patent although
   they are just selling books. Tim Berners-Lee, creator of the Web,
   acknowledged during the Eighth International World Wide Web Conference
   in Toronto that "the bar for innovation seems too low. You are able to
   take an existing social practice and write software to do it and get a
   patent"  and he added that "The challenge is to prevent us from
   becoming completely paralysed by fear, uncertainty and doubt,"
   Ron McQuaker, Director of Exxel Consultants Ltd, finds that "Although
   there are strong pressures to extend patent protection to computer
   programs as such, the case is not yet made out well enough to convince
   large sections of the software industry. It is not enough to argue
   that other forms of invention enjoy patent protection, so why not
   software. That statement is too simplistic".
   _According to the above collection of opinions expressed by Industry
   Pioneers, in order to promote innovation, competition and new
   businesses in the IT industry, Europe should be very careful with the
   application of software patents. "It would be quite regrettable for
   Europe not to take this occasion to create a new model for
   intellectual property_" notices Guido Gualandi; CEO of Ziggourat and
   maker of 3D software.
  Press Contact
   Jean-Paul Smets (AFUL) - jp@smets.com
   Hartmut Pilch (FFII) - phm@a2e.de
   The EuroLinux Alliance for a Free Information Initiative
   (www.eurolinux.org) is a coallition of companies and associations to
   promote and protect the use of Linux, Free Software and Open Standards
   at the European Level.
   [INLINE] The freepatents campaign (www.freepatents.org) is a EuroLinux
   initiative to protect Europe from the misuse of Software Patents. The
   freepatents web site includes most references to economic issues of
   patenting software.
   [INLINE] AFUL (www.aful.org) is the French Speaking Linux and Free
   Software Association, a French association of users, developers and
   companies to promote and protect the use of Linux, Free Software and
   Open Standards
   [INLINE] FFII (www.ffii.org) is the Foundation for a Free Information
   Infrastructure, a German association of users, developers and
   companies to promote and protect the use of Linux, Free Software and
   Open Standards
   [INLINE] APRIL (www.april.org) is a French Speaking Free Sofware
   Association, association of users, developers and scientists to
   promote and protect the use of Free Software, Open Standards.
    1. http://www.eurolinux.org/pr/pr1.html
    2. http://www.freepatents.org/pr1.html
    3. http://swpat.ffii.org
    4. http://liberte.aful.org/presse/cp-patents.html
    5. http://www.troll.no
    6. http://www.ssh.fi
    7. http://www.netpresenter.com
    8. http://www.mysql.com
    9. http://www.arisem.com
   10. http://www.exoffice.com
   11. http://www.vshop.de
   12. http://www.isoc.asso.fr/AUTRANS99/99cr.htm
   13. http://www.lwn.net/1999/0304/a/panel.html
   14. http://www.loi-internet.org/pages/actu/textes/loifinal.htm
   15. http://www.freepatents.org/law/proposal/Brevets.html
   16. http://www.zdnet.com/intweek/stories/news/0,4164,2260189,00.html
   18. http://www.monde-diplomatique.fr/1999/03/RIVIERE/11769.html
   19. http://www.patent.gov.uk/softpat/en/1400.html
   20. http://lpf.ai.mit.edu/
   21. http://www.herring.com/mag/issue66/news-sue.html