Bonum Certa Men Certa

Microsoft Lobbyists Abound for Software Patents in Europe

A

s we emphasised yesterday, Microsoft's plan for 'interoperability' excludes the GNU GPL, by design. In essence, this is achieved using what Microsoft proudly calls "licensing", which requires payments for the use of protocols that have become very prevalent. The issue at hand was also described in the following short blog post from yesterday.

After Microsoft went public with its patent licensing specs the other day, I took a closer look at the agreements you have to sign -- and the cash you have to fork over. To license patents from any one Microsoft product, you need to pay $10,000 up front, no questions asked, on top of per-copy-sold duties for your product.

It's about what I expected from Microsoft. Good on them that they allow you to peruse and make use of the protocols without charge if you just want to work with them privately and not develop something that's going to be released to others. But everything outside of that requires payment -- and that $10K entry dues per Microsoft product is a great way to keep all of the noncommercial open source players out of the game.


Most observers are likely believe that people in Europe are unaffected by this because software patents have no merit, but Microsoft plays this game in a US-centric way, as illustrated by the Samba story, especially last year [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11]. Moreover, Charlie McCreevy has plans for what they call "harmonisation" (a very deceiving and cheeky word). His involvement is further described in this new article from IAM Magazine.

And alongside a Community patent we need a single European patent jurisdiction through which we can end the current patchwork of often contradictory decisions in patent cases handed down by national courts. On top of this, just three years ago the Commission was telling us that we needed a Computer Implemented Inventions directive to harmonise the treatment of software patents, again to help SMEs and to provide certainty in the software market. In short, the Commission tells us that patents are good and patents are vital to Europe’s prosperity.

[...]

So, a go-getting and smart European SME may well have invested significant time and money in developing world-class software. It may have followed the advice of commissioners McCreevy and Verheugen to get patent protection, but when it comes to putting that software into a potentially lucrative pan-European project, it’s no can do.


But wait. That's not all. Some Microsoft lobbyisys we have come to know years ago, Jonathan Zuck and his agents, are once again pretending that small businesses are at stake.

Jonathan Zuck, president of the Association for Competitive Technology, said the EU scored an own goal with the document. "It aims to facilitate digital cooperation among European administrations, but in effect it excludes many well-established technologies from being used for e-Government services due to a narrow definition of open standards."


It was only yesterday that we wrote about CompTIA and other Microsoft pressure groups. Pamela Jones connects the observation above to the previous incidents. She wrote:

[PJ: Yup. The BSA and CompTIA are riding agin. Yippee-ki-yi-ay, it's a range war, and here comes the pr machine, and along with them dutifully ride some of the media. "The software industry" is expressing concerns? IP is being "sacrificed"? Or is it some fronts for Microsoft expressing concern? Take your pick. I'm pretty sure Red Hat isn't complaining, and they are part of the software industry, after all. And not even all the members of these organizations wish to be represented this way. Remember last summer in Australia when CompTIA claimed its members were for OOXML and IBM was stood up and said it was a member of CompTIA and it was opposed? So, CompTIA speaks for *some of its members* who I guess would rather have others speak for them. I seriously doubt IBM is worrying about the EIC or open standards. You can read the final draft of the EIC here and more about it here.]


We also wrote yesterday about WIPO yesterday, so you may wish to keep an eye on articles like this one. There's a lot of mystery around WIPO's plans.

The fact that the WIPO patent committee has decided to request the International Bureau studies on “exceptions from patentable subject matter and limitations to the rights, inter alia research exemption and compulsory licenses” and “patents and standards” is testament that the WIPO of 2008 is not the WIPO that invoked “Intellectual Property as a Power tool for Development”.

Here below is the Annex to the Summary by the Chair which lists the eighteen non-exhaustive list of issues for further elaboration and discussion in the future. This list includes such topics as “Economic impact of the patent system, Alternative models for innovation, Patents and health (including exhaustion, the Doha Declaration and other WTO instruments, patent landscaping) and Relation of patents with other public policy issues.”


In summary, as is hopefully demonstrated here, there's a great push from several different fronts for software patents in Europe. Without software patents, Microsoft's dream of taxing Free software are doomed to fail. It's an important battle to fight and important developments to keep abreast of.

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