05.25.09

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Is the United Kingdom Immune to Software Patents? Continental Europe is… for Now… Sort of…

Posted in Europe, Free/Libre Software, Law, Microsoft at 4:38 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

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Summary: The impact of the Symbian case revisited; Europe under threat of anti-FOSS laws, which Microsoft craves

NOKIA (proprietor of Symbian) deserves no honour or credit whatsoever for what it did in Europe regarding software patents [1, 2].

According to these lawyers, however, the infamous Symbian case did not really change anything in the UK. To quote:

If anyone thought that Symbian really changed anything at the UK-IPO, the IPKat thinks that they are probably either overly optimistic or mistaken. The test, such as it is, is now still the familiar 4-step Aerotel test, but bearing in mind that computer programs can make a technical contribution, contrary to what the 4-step test might suggest.

In other older news, attempts to legalise software patents in Europe are back, but they are dressed a little differently.

Another open door for software patents in EU

[...]

A new international treaty United Patent Litigation System (UPLS) that may create an centralised trusted patent court is the new open door for software patents in the European Union.

The draft UPLS is inspired from the now defunct European Patent Litigation Agreement (EPLA) and is estimated to creat a new international patent court. As FFII (Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure) points out, the system will by-pass the national courts. This court system would be shielded against any review by the European Court of Justice (ECJ). Thus, hand-picked patent judges will have the last word on software patents, meaning that will have the ultimate power to interpret patent law.

To quote Jefferson, “the price of freedom is eternal vigilance.” Microsoft is still lobbying for software patents in Europe, despite some setbacks. Don’t let them pawn tomorrow’s programmers and even hold them hostage by pieces of paper that symbolise nothing of substance.

“[The EPO] can’t distinguish between hardware and software so the patents get issued anyway.”

Marshall Phelps, Microsoft

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