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12.13.10

McCreevy’s Successors Are Getting Their Way With Software Patents in Europe

Posted in Europe, Microsoft, Patents at 4:19 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“The theme, or the background music, to both of these particular directives you could see as part of, anti-globalisation, anti-Americanism, anti-big business protests — in lots of senses, anti-the opening up of markets.”

Charlie McCreevy

Summary: Barnier and van Quickenborne step forward with a bad plan by excluding Italy

FOR THOSE who are new to the antics of Charlie McCreevy, this is the person who for several years threatened to create a route which would facilitate patenting of software in Europe. McCreevy failed despite daemonisation of his critics, but the same old proposals kept renaming themselves and they fell into the hands of people equally dangerous, to whom ruining Europe’s advantage when it comes to patents seemed like a goal. Barnier et al. [1, 2, 3] did some of the work and Vincent van Quickenborne, who kept ignoring the problems (at times even citing Microsoft lobbyists from the United States) was also a big pusher for the McCreevy agenda [1, 2, 3, 4]. Now they call it “EU patent” and Microsoft has been lobbying very hard for it. To Microsoft, the return on investment is huge even if they can just alter a few words. Microsoft seems to be in the process of becoming a patent troll, so it wants its patents to be valid in Europe.

On Friday there was a disturbing new development because a Council Meeting sought to exclude opposition by excluding entire countries as we will show later in the post. Financial blackmail was also considered as an option by some.

After it turned out in the extraordinary Competitiveness Council meeting of 10 November 2010 that, due to the controversy regarding a commonly accepted language regime, “there will never be unamity on a EU patent” (see this post and the press conference of Mr Vincent Van Quickenborne), the “willing” EU member states intensified the discussion on (and apparently their efforts towards) an enhanced co-operation, i.e. an EU legislative agreement among a small group of EU members to launch a diminished EU patent based on the ‘Munich’ three languages system, as proposed by the European Commission on 30 June 2010.

[...]

Anyway. It is expected that Frenchman Michel Barnier, the EU commissioner for internal market and services, will present a proposal to the Competitiveness Council on the next meeting, which Mr Van Quickenborne expects to be “decisive on the single EU Patent” in a recent tweet.

Why is he trying to become an enemy of software in the EU? It’s not even about software freedom, it’s about the interests of all software developers who reside in Europe. The EU Council Press also attributes this to Vincent van Quickenborne:

Competitiveness #EUCouncil tomorrow chaired by @VincentVQ to discuss #EU patent http://bit.ly/g1M0wG cc @EPOorg

Unlike what this headline may suggest, it’s not final, but it sure seems like countries are being pressured to comply with bad ideas.

So far there are 10. At least nine EU countries were needed to make an end-run around Italy to create a united patent and protect the design of products sold across their borders.

“Spain’s veto on EU patent” is also being treated as a nuisance rather than an opportunity to understand the real situation.

Ten European Union countries have formally asked to create a common patent regime after Italy and Spain blocked attempts to introduce an EU-wide system, EU market regulation commissioner Michel Barnier said Wednesday.

‘I have received a letter from 10 states,’ Barnier said, mentioning Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Slovenia and Sweden.

The group wants to start a so-called ‘enhanced cooperation’ – the practice which allows a minimum of nine EU countries to go pursue a common initiative even if not all others want to take part in it.

They are trying to humiliate and shame countries into it.

More here:

Ten member states have sent an official formal request to Internal Market Commissioner Michel Barnier calling for enhanced cooperation on the creation of an EU patent. France, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Slovenia and Sweden requested that the EU executive submit to the Council a proposal for the establishment of such cooperation under the terms of Article 329 TFEU with regard to the creation a Community patent protection covering the territories of participating member states.

As the president of the FFII put it

Barnier also promised there would be ‘no discrimination for any business’ filing for patent protection (a lie) http://ur1.ca/2jnby

Vincent van Quickenborne is just excited to do this harm in defense of which he cites Microsoft lobbyists. “11 countries signed the letter for enhanced cooperation. SWE NL FI DK LT FR EE SL DE LUX UK,” he wrote. The EU Council Press seems to just be a booster of it as it calls it a “cherry on the cake”:

.@VincentVQ on #EUpatent: “Today’s result is the cherry on the cake of the Belgian Presidency of the #EU #Council” #eutriobe

Here is one summary from the FFII (no formal response yet because it has been a weekend):

Ten member states have sent an official formal request to Internal Market Commissioner Michel Barnier calling for enhanced cooperation on the creation of an EU patent.

Here is the only response we’ve found from FFII so far and a response from lawyers who profit from legal chaos (Falk Metzler, for example, with a press release).

@Keinpatent got #EPO #patent on tomato and broccoli dropped! Congrats

FSFE links to a WIPO study and says: “no robust empirical evidence that stronger patent rights stimulate growth”, sez #WIPO study http://ur1.ca/2j474 [PDF] Times a’changing?”

If that’s the case, why is Europe strengthening patents by expanding their scope? It makes no sense.

FSFE Scrutinises European Governments for Stance on Proprietary Software in Procurement

Posted in Europe, Free/Libre Software, Microsoft at 3:46 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Faces of Earth

Summary: Pullback follows attempts to impose proprietary software on systems which the public is funding

PROPRIETARY software is hardly ever justified for a government to use, but Microsoft’s influence in Europe has led to improper deals that resulted in public pressure in Italy, hopefully a future a lawsuit in France, and an ongoing Swiss case which we covered in:

  1. Microsoft Sued Over Its Corruption in Switzerland, Microsoft Debt Revisited
  2. Can the United Kingdom and Hungary Still be Sued for Excluding Free Software?
  3. 3 New Counts of Antitrust Violation by Microsoft?
  4. Is Microsoft Breaking the Law in Switzerland Too?
  5. Microsoft Uses Lobbyists to Attack Holland’s Migration to Free Software and Sort of Bribes South African Teachers Who Use Windows
  6. ZDNet/eWeek Ruins Peter Judge’s Good Article by Attacking Red Hat When Microsoft Does the Crime
  7. Week of Microsoft Government Affairs: a Look Back, a Look Ahead
  8. Lawsuit Against Microsoft/Switzerland Succeeds So Far, More Countries/Companies Should Follow Suit
  9. Latest Reports on Microsoft Bulk Deals Being Blocked in Switzerland, New Zealand
  10. Swiss Government and Federal Computer Weekly: Why the Hostility Towards Free Software?
  11. Switzerland and the UK Under Fire for Perpetual Microsoft Engagements
  12. Lawsuit Over Alleged Microsoft Corruption in Switzerland Escalates to Federal Court
  13. When Microsoft-Only/Lock-in is Defined as “Technology”
  14. Microsoft’s Allegedly Illegal Swiss Contracts to Take People to Court Again

Quebec saw a lawsuit against the choice of Microsoft products as well [1, 2, 3] and there is this new article which refers to it:

In June, Savoir-Faire Linux Inc., a computer services firm specializing in free, or open, computer systems, won a Quebec Superior Court judgment against the Regie des rentes du Quebec, which manages the province’s public pension plan.

Justice Denis Jacques ruled the Regie acted illegally when it considered only Microsoft products and awarded a contract in 2008 to upgrade to Windows Vista without a call for public tenders.

[...]

While the software is free to download, it must be maintained; the government will determine where free software is appropriate before calling for tenders, the minister said.

Europe seems to be heading in the same direction, especially now that the public realises there are free (libre) options which are also better. Mark Ballard has just posted some details (but not links) about the FSFE’s complaints, which we mentioned in our daily link summaries.

But the deal contravenes numerous EU rules and guidelines calling persistently to implement non-proprietary computer systems, said the FSFE

FSFE president Karsten Gerloff said in a statement that by striking such deals “the Commission is digging itself deeper into the vendor lock-in hole,” when it should be seeking to be more independent of vendors and making great use of open software and open standards.

The FSFE said SACHA II contradicted European competition rules by discriminating in favour of proprietary software vendors.

The contract also ignored the EC’s Digital Agenda, which called in May for IT systems to be “open and interoperable”, said the FSFE.

It’s about pages like these. “Any idea if Microsoft is specified in there,” asked us one reader. “Call for tenders should be neutral…”

Over in the UK, common sense is out the door as government departments are led to Vista 7 and over in the US it’s even worse because government data is being put on Microsoft servers, which compromises services, privacy, and much more. “U.S. Department of Agriculture To Be Locked Inside Microsoft Cloud” is how this one Web site put it:

In this era of vendor-lock free and open source technologies the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is on the verge of going live with a commercial cloud service offering for its Enterprise Messaging Service (EMS), which includes e-mail, webconferencing, document collaboration and instant messaging.

For governments to choose Fog Computing is simply irresponsible and in some sense even worse than choosing proprietary software. The Wikileaks-Amazon story ought to show us why. The next post will show worse things that happen in Europe.

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