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01.21.11

European Commission Disappoints Regarding Free Software and Patents

Posted in Europe, Free/Libre Software, Patents at 10:49 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Siim Kallas - GWB
Siim Kallas with George Bush

Summary: Why the European Commission continues to disappoint freedom proponents following staff changes and perhaps a little entryism

BELATED criticism of the second version of EIF [1, 2, 3, 4, 5] is coming all at once. The Red Hat-run site, opensource.com, has just posted yet another interpretation of the EIFv2, this time not Red Hat’s official response. It starts with:

In December, the long awaited version 2.0 of the European Interoperability Framework (EIF) was released by the European Commission. Version 1.0 had defined “open standard” as royalty-free, a definition of enormous impact on standards policy because it focused on the user perspective rather than the perspective of standards development organizations. Some standards organizations claim that “open standards” refers only to the way the standard was developed – not the terms of availability. In addition, some argue that “fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory” licensing (FRAND or simply RAND – without the “fair,” as it is known in the U.S.) should be the baseline for openness, not “royalty-free” (RF).

EIF v2 takes the broader perspective on “openness” – that it pertains to the terms of availability, not just the process under which the standard is developed. However, it drops the requirement that “open” = royalty-free. In fact, even “fully open” does not mean royalty-free. The key section reads:

If the openness principle is applied in full…. Intellectual property rights related to the specification are licensed on FRAND terms or on a royalty-free basis in a way that allows implementation in both proprietary and open source software.

This seems to say that RF is no more open than (F)RAND, although RF is in fact an especially open subset of (F)RAND. Unless there are unusual special requirements, anything licensed royalty-free is commonly considered to be available under “free, reasonable, and nondiscriminatory” terms.

To save people the trouble of reading it all, in conclusion states the author:

PCAST is not the government but it is the highest private sector advisory body on science and technology. Its views are taken seriously, especially on something as fundamental as de facto definitions. The European Commission is a government agency and in this case is dealing with procurement and interoperation within government agencies. In the new version of the European Interoperability Framework, it has backtracked, offering guidance that defies common understanding. It muddles the policy framework by introducing new ambiguities and perpetuating debate about fundamental definitions.
considered to be available under “free, reasonable, and nondiscriminatory” terms.

It turns out that we also missed the announcement from APRIL, which said: “EU Commission moving away from interoperability for European public services.”

The European Commission released on December 16th, 2010 its communication relative to its “Interoperability Strategy and Framework for public services”. This document is carrying on an unacceptable reversal on interoperability issues, and ratifies the disappearance of open standards, which were already threatened by the Digital Agenda for Europe.

[...]

April is therefore staying alert in order to ensure that Free Software players will not be excluded from the actions that will be set forth following this communication.

The FFII’s president notes that Europe drops the ball even with its own software:

For technical reasons, the GPF editor has been designed as a Windows application.

Around the same time, the FFII folks saw some worrying material regarding the European Commission. As noted the other day, there is an inexplicable rush to advance the EU patent, which this document from December in Brussels helps elucidate by stating: “On 1 August 2000, the Commission adopted a proposal for a Council Regulation on the Community patent[1]. The Commission proposed the creation of a unitary Community patent which would co-exist with national patents granted by national patent offices of the Member States and European patents granted under the European Patent Convention (EPC) by the European Patent Office (EPO). As a well functioning centralised patent granting system had already been set up in Europe by the EPC in the 1970s, it was envisaged that the Community patent would also be granted by the EPO. Users of the patent system would be free to choose which type of patent protection best suited their needs.

“The Commission proposal aimed at the creation of a Community patent that would be attractive to the users of the patent system in Europe, in particular by proposing simplified and cost-effective translation arrangements. In particular, the Commission proposed that after grant of the Community patent by the EPO in one of the official languages of the EPO (English, French or German) and publication in that language together with a translation of the claims into the other two official languages of the EPO, the Community patent would have taken effect in the entire Union.”

It has been demonstrated before that the European Commission was changed from the inside (staff changes). It no longer seems as Free/open source software-friendly as it used to be, so its response to CPTN does not surprise us.

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