11.05.15

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CopyCamp ’15 in Warsaw Discussed the Problem of Patents on Software, Which Still Exist in Europe

Posted in Europe, Patents at 8:54 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

There is definitely still a problem “as such”

Warsaw

Summary: An IT security & Free Software consultancy based in Warsaw explains that “many think Europe is free from software patent” when the matter of fact is that “rules for software patenting were not accepted as obligatory.”

IT wasn’t until this morning that we knew about this activism in Poland. [via Benjamin Henrion, the FFII’s President, as well as Gérald Sédrati-Dinet, whom the EPO tried to bully]

To quote the Web site softpatents.bitshack.pl:

This year, it is ten years ago that the proposed European Directive for “Computer Implemented Inventions” a.k.a. software patents was rejected by an overwhelming majority of the European Parliament, after a dramatic struggle of “freedom fighters” against corporate interests.

Since then, many think Europe is free from software patents. It is far from true. The rejection of the directive actually did not mean that software patents were forbidden from that time, but that some – questionable – rules for software patenting were not accepted as obligatory.

The situation is worse than ten years ago because courts in European countries are not setting proper limits on software patentability. We would like to talk about Polish bad and good examples, which remain unknown. We think that discussing them openly would strengthen the proper trend.

According to this program, Władysław Majewski gave a talk titled “Rejection of Patent Directive – 10th anniversary“. It’s over now and they would “like to discuss the message we should convey to wider audience on 32C3 in Hamburg.” That’s a little far from Munich but not too far from Berlin. Maybe EPO examiners can help these people extend their message, making their views on the subject more widely understood.

For our readers who are still not familiar with the harms of software patents, Henrion has just highlighted this position/stance statement from the Free Software Foundation Europe, which says:

Software patentability is another area of concern that needs to be addressed on a European level in order to unleash the full innovative potential of Europe. Despite the fact that software is explicitly excluded from patentability according to the European Patent Convention, software in Europe is de facto patented under “computer implemented invention”. The European Patent Office (EPO) grants more than 5 000 patents yearly in the fields of “computer technology”and “digital communications”3, that in practice cover software. Software patents in the form of “computer implemented inventions” have the highest growth rate, according to the EPO, and the number of granted software patents has been rising at a rate of 3 000 per year.

Software is treated as “literary work” and is protected by copyright under Software Directive 2009/24/EC, thus making the additional protection through patentability unnecessary. Moreover this burdens innovators with extra costs and legal risks, and hinders market competitiveness. The loss of potential innovators and new actors on the digital market due to the unclear status of software patentability is a high price to pay for the EU.

FSFE wants to highlight the legislative actions taken on national level in order to tackle this issue, in particular the decision of the German Parliament in 2013 to effectively limit the patenting of computer programs, as copyright protection is already available. This decision was also welcomed and supported by German SME associations. Furthermore, several studies have shown that companies producing software do not deem patent protection as a useful mechanism spurring future inventive streams. On the contrary, companies find that software patents hinder the rate of innovation and lock-in the market in favor of few monopolistic companies.

FSFE asks the Commission to follow this example and propose a clear requirement that software solutions shall not be patented under any unclear terms implemented by the practice of the EPO, and to further strengthen copyright protection for software, so that no rights received under copyright will be devalued by third parties’ patents covering software in “computer implemented inventions”.

To those who work at the EPO, please consider doing what you can to protect European programmers as well as programmers worldwide (proprietary and Free software alike). These people don’t want patents, they already have copyrights and that’s enough. Anyone who says that they need patents is either a liar or someone who profits from it, usually without writing a single line of code.

The “EPO’s Investigative Unit Exposed” series will continue very soon.

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