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08.23.11

Europe Under Threat From Software Patents Through the Back Door, Warns FSF Founder

Posted in Apple, Europe, Patents, Samsung at 11:21 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Stallman lectures

Summary: Richard Stallman further validates the FFII’s warning that Europe is besieged by the same forces who sought to legalise software patents in the whole EU just over half a decade ago

LAST year we warned that Amazon was trying to flush its software patents down the EPO's throat. Benjamin Henrion warns that “Amazon one-click patentable in Europe, EPO says add a computer and it will become patentable,” based on this blog post:

Amazon’s so called “One-Click Patent” is one of the most controversially discussed software inventions ever. The term, which nowadays is used as a cipher for a prototypical business method patent, was originally coined for US 5,960,411 titled “method and system for placing a purchase order via a communications network” (filed 12 Sep 2007, granted 28 Sep 1999; pdf), which has been enforced against competitor Barnes & Noble and licensed to Apple.

The respective teaching enables easy Internet shopping in that a customer visits a website, enters address and payment information and is associated with an identifier stored in a “cookie” in his client computer. A server is then able to recognize the client by the cookie and to retrieve purchasing information related to the customer, who thus can buy an item with a “single click”.

Europe is in a limbo and even hours ago people complained about it:

Read this patent GRANTED in Europe t.co/aaGAtfa then read this t.co/BxK8stq for more crappy #swpats

Richard Stallman has emerged from his more political commentary and contributed this article which warns about the “unitary patent” — the latest among many euphemisms used to silently push a pro-software patents agenda. To quote Stallman:

Just as the US software industry is experiencing the long-anticipated all-out software patent wars, the European Union has a plan to follow the same course. When the Hargreaves report urged the UK to avoid software patents, the UK government had already approved a plan that is likely to impose them.

Software patents are dangerous to software developers because they impose monopolies on software ideas. It is not feasible or safe to develop non-trivial software if you must thread a maze of patents. (See Patent absurdity, Guardian, 20 June 2005.)

Every program combines many ideas; a large program implements thousands of them. Google recently estimated there might be 250,000 patented ideas in a smartphone. I find that figure plausible, because in 2004 I estimated that the GNU/Linux operating system implemented around 100,000 actually patented ideas. (Linux, the kernel, had been found by Dan Ravicher to contain 283 such ideas, and was estimated to be 25% of the whole system at the time.)

[...]

The volunteer activists drifted away, thinking the battle won, but the corporate lobbyists for software patents were paid to stay on the job. Now they have contrived another sneaky method: the “unitary patent” system proposed for the EU. Under this system, if the European Patent Office issues a patent, it will automatically be valid in every participating country, which in this case means all of the EU except for Spain and Italy.

European patent lawyers are obviously unhappy about Stallman’s article. As Stallman warns about lobbying those aim is to get software patents approved in Europe, European patent lawyers label his allegation a “conspiracy theory” — a term whose usage we explained before.

This cheapening of Stallman’s views (which reached a lot of people through The Guardian, plus the “Slashdot effect”) actually comes from the group which is typically polite, German patent people like Falk Metzler (here is his latest agenda-pushing) and Axel H. Horns, who gets into an argument (after calling Stallman’s argument “conspiracy theory) with the FFII. He, along with pro-Microsoft lobbyist (Florian Müller), writes pro-software patents rhetoric and adds in relation to the “unitary patent” that:

On July 10, 2010, I had reported on the planned Organisation of work on the patent reform under the Polish Presidency. Now, as we still are within the summer recess period where nothing appears to move forward there might be a little stretch of time to contemplate as to how things might move on during next fall.

There is a recent precedent of successful adoption of enhanced co-operation in the EU: As we can learn from Wikipedia, with the rise in cross border divorce in the EU, common rules were put forward to settle the issue of where trans-national couples can divorce in the EU. However Sweden was blocking the new rules, fearing the loss of its liberal divorce law (divorce law differs strongly, with Nordic liberalism being in contrast to more conservative countries such as Malta which – until recently – did not even allow it). In order to allow those willing states to proceed without Sweden, in July 2008 nine countries put forward a proposal to use enhanced co-operation. At a meeting of the justice ministers on July 25, 2008, the nine states decided to formally seek the measure of enhanced cooperation; eight states formally requested it from the European Commission on 28 July 2008.

This is an interesting analysis (the author is typically informative), but why potray a so-called ‘unity’ patent as a good thing like peace-making? It’s not. All it does is, it increases damages in European industries and raises the frequency/impact of litigation, which helps the likes of the author, not real producers.

To give a very recent example of the toxic effects of US monopolies inside Europe, consider the Apple embargogate [1, 2, 3] , which fortunately turned out to be just an Apple scam that ended badly for Apple. To quote:

Apple faces a turnover of the Samsung injunction and iPad 3 may be delayed with screen supply problems

It was a black Wednesday for Apple. Samsung managed to overturn the European Union ban on sales of its flagship tablet, an action prosecuted by Apple, and the iPad 3 launch was “put back” because of technical problems.

Added to the news that if Google’s bid for Motorola Mobile goes through, Apple will lose some of its patents litigation power because of its reliance on Motorola technologies, it is probably not a good time to be in the Cupertino company’s boardroom.

Here is more about Apple lying to the court using fake 'evidence' to impose an EU-wise embargo of Linux-based products from Samsung. It is theorised that Samsung might buy WebOS from HP, but based on hirings, Samsung will stay with Android/Bada and distribute that without qualm all around Europe, although quite likely with a Microsoft tax. Samsung is one of the top patentors in Europe.

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