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05.19.12

Defeat for Software Patents in the United Kingdom

Posted in Europe, Patents, Ubuntu at 4:38 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Anti software patents
India too is fighting against software patents

Summary: Wise words from a prominent Linux figure and news from the UK

UBUNTU FOUNDER Mark Shuttleworth recently said that innovation is impeded in countries that have too many patents. To quote an analysis of his words:

Of course, this is the exact opposite of what the patent system is supposed to do — but pretty much everyone who’s actually innovating these days seems to recognize the same thing. What amazes me is that we haven’t seen more of what Mark hints at towards the very end: countries providing explicit safe havens around patents. We have examples of this in the past — perhaps most famously, the Netherlands and Switzerland in the latter half of the 19th century. The Netherlands dumped patents entirely, while the Swiss limited what was patentable massively (to the point that very little was considered patentable at all). And both countries saw economic growth as a result — where industry and innovation flocked to both countries because they weren’t being held back by patent disputes.

Over in the UK, where Shuttleworth’s Canonical is based, software patents have just lost: [via Glyn Moody and the Open Source Consortium]

The UK Intellectual Property Office Hearing Officer rejected the application, concluding that it consisted of a ‘program for a computer…as such’ and did not meet the patentability criteria of Article 52, inorporated into the UK legislation by s.1(2) of the Patents Act 1977. If that wasn’t enough, the invention disclosed in the application consisted of a ‘scheme, rule or method for …doing business…as such.’

For the UK to thrive it needs to forbid patents on software. My current development project is a car navigation system for Android (with camera) and when I search the web for information about similar work I am seeing quite a few patent applications that restrict implementation. How does that help innovation when my project is research-oriented and ERC-funded? Patents do nothing but limit people’s creativity and freedom of though/exploration.

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2 Comments

  1. Needs Sunlight said,

    May 20, 2012 at 7:53 am

    Gravatar

    I’m not sure why it’s even up for discussion. The UK is in the EU, at least on paper, and the EU prohibits software patents via the 1973 European Patent Convention. Article 52 specifically prohibits patents on software and business methods:

    http://www.epo.org/law-practice/legal-texts/html/epc/1973/e/ar52.html

    Why can’t the politicians in charge just take the pro-SW patent noise makers and rub their noses in Article 52?

    The same goes for the other EU countries.

    Dr. Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    Back in 2008, Techrights covered Mark Shuttleworth’s reaction to a ruling in a UK (regarding Symbian IIRC, hence pre-Nokia, which was also in the pro-software patents lobby at the time) which legitimised software patents in the UK. The UK-IPO, being disjoint somewhat from continental Europe (some Brits don’t view themselves as part of “European” culture), is bound to be thinking a little independently from the EPO. With Eurocrats and people like Wilcox calling the shots, scientists and engineers have little influence on the matter.

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