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Knuth Tells Europe to Let Him “Innovate in Peace” (Without Software Patents)

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Summary: Battle against software patents in Europe summons strong, heavy opposition

PROFESSOR DONALD KNUTH IS nobody to sneeze at. He is considered one of the world's masters or authorities in algorithms and his letter opposing software patents in the United States is rather famous. A short while ago Knuth was kind enough to worry for Europeans too. He submitted an Amicus Curiae to the Enlarged Board of Appeal (we did too). Highlights can be found here:



Prof. em Donald E. Knuth, the algorithm pope, sent an Amicus Curiae letter to the European Patent Office in the case G03/08 and expressed his desire to “innovate in peace”...


In addition to this, someone from The Free Software Foundation Europe provided the following explanation for the needlessness of software patents. [via Digital Majority]

The big problem with regard to software patents is the question of invested effort. The whole debate about software patents usually evolves around the question whether or not copyright is a sufficient protection for software. In my opinion it is, which can be shown very easily:

1. First you have an idea. This costs you nothing. 2. Then you sit down and invest work in an implementation of your idea. This implementation is fully covered by copyright, and is your first real investment into the idea.


This is an important battle of minds where Microsoft and allies seek to essentially ban the freedom of software (by restricting free distribution). One person labels it "EU Software Patents v3.0."

Four years ago, the European Parliament has rejected a directive that would have codified the practice to grant software patents by the European Patent Office. Now the President of the EPO has decided to refer the question of software patents to the Enlarged Board of Appeal, in an other attempt to validate the case law developed by the Technical Board of Appeals. Another attempt to create an harmonious interpretation of the Convention is the creation of a central patent court.


It has been quite a sham thus far.

“Dear Commissioner: Along with many other computer scientists, I would like to ask you to reconsider the current policy of giving patents for computational processes.

“There are far better ways to protect the intellectual property rights of software developers than to take away their right to use fundamental building blocks.

“I find a considerable anxiety throughout the community of practicing computer scientists that decisions by the patent courts and the Patent and Trademark Office are making life much more difficult for programmers. ”

--Donald Knuth

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