10.20.15

Narendra Modi Must Immediately Block Software Patents to Save India’s Software Industry

Posted in Asia, Law, Patents at 6:07 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Critical decision

Narendra Modi

Summary: Indian proprietary software and Free/libre Open Source software (i.e. everything except for large multinationals’, such as Microsoft or IBM) is at great danger after terrible changes were proposed to Indian patent law

TECHRIGHTS spent a lot of time writing about software patents in India, especially recently. These have not been legal, but Modi’s government threatens to change this. Does Modi work for patent lawyers and multinationals, or will he keep his promise (like many vacuous election promises) to defend the people of India from such corporate, colonialist occupations? Recent trips to software giants in the US don’t serve to inspire much confidence in Modi right now.

Patent lawyers in India go where the money is: protecting the companies that profit from Indian deaths. Many of these patent lawyers (essentially profiteers) lobby for stronger protectionism of foreign pharmaceutical giants (driving up prices of medicine), but to make matters worse, there are those who want software patents in India because they can profit at the expense of Indian programmers. Are lawyers and their big clients (foreign companies) winning this battle?

“It is unthinkable that India can in any way benefit from software patents.”“New patent guidelines may spell trouble for Indian software developers” was the other day’s headline from Legally India, a site which correctly states that: “Every city or town, big or small, is seeing a spurt of startups that do path-breaking work in the area of software products, mobile apps and embedded products. However, these firms could soon be threatened by the dark-clouds looming large over the technology horizon of India in the form of software patents.”

It is unthinkable that India can in any way benefit from software patents. The Hindu, a large Indian news site, published “Tying up innovation in legal knots”. It said that: “While law-making in Parliament seems to have come to something of a halt over the last couple of years, the executive branch of government, in contravention of its constitutional role, is busy passing regulations that are, in essence, amendments to laws. The examples of executive overreach over the last few years are numerous — for instance, the notification of the Information Technology (Intermediaries Guidelines) Rules, 2011, which, inter alia, expanded the scope of offences under the Indian Penal Code in the context of the Internet by criminalising activities such as blasphemy.”

“If Modi and his government don’t choose to stop this madness, India will definitely shoot itself in the foot, all for multinationals’ sake (trying to attract foreign businesses at the expense or mortality of local companies).”What is happening to India? No sane person (except perhaps lobbyists of software patents) can deny that software patents would be a terrible thing for software powehouse like India. Programmers don’t want patents, they already have copyrights (instantaneously obtained and easily enforceable by law).

“Software patents back to the fore” was another news article that got published early this week. To quote: “Successive governments have supported open source software. The earlier Open Standards Policy and the recently released Open Source Software for E-Governance, are all welcome measures in this direction. How, then do we explain government’s sudden shift towards software patenting, that too through executive action and in violation of the will of the Parliament?

“Software patents are like the “living dead” in the zombie film genre that Hollywood has made popular. They just refuse to die. As many times you kill them, they revive again and keep coming back.”

If Modi and his government don’t choose to stop this madness, India will definitely shoot itself in the foot, all for multinationals’ sake (trying to attract foreign businesses at the expense or mortality of local companies). Recall what we wrote about this government earlier this year in relation to Free/libre Open Source software.

Indians should consider taking action, and not just public protests. Maybe if enough politicians, who never wrote or even saw a computer program in their entire life (not at code level), became better informed, things would quickly change, much like the debate in the media. Indian politicians need programmers to explain to them the stark difference between patent protection and copyright protection. If programmers don’t speak out, only lobbyists of companies like Microsoft will. We already saw how Microsoft worked to derail India's Free/libre Open Source software policy, behind the scenes (with help from front groups that pretend to represent India's interests). Never underestimate Microsoft’s influence in the Indian government.

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