Capaigning against software patents

Xavi Drudis Ferran xdrudis at
Thu Dec 5 01:14:57 UTC 2002

> > > In the end, these guys are busy. If you leave them with just an
> > > impression it could be a vote-loser, you're 50% there.
> > 
> > Yes, of course. I thought that impression was a function of how many
> > people complain...
> No for most professional politicians that's not actually very 
> important - you get a constant stream of complaint letters from all 
> sorts of madmen when you're a politician. Every politician equates 
> the economy with votes - it's the number one rule - and anything 
> which hurts the economy (followed by hurting employment) immediately 
> speaks "votes" to most politicians. Hence a letter from the CEO of 
> Unisys counts for 1000 letters from ordinary people.

Of course people complaining should point out the damage to the 
economy (and to human rights, and other points), not sound like madmen. 
> > We wrote a letter for Software companies but we finally didn't send it
> > because it was too close to spam. Maybe paranoid, yes. It's not a big
> > deal, and it's in Catalan only, but it's at
> >
> No point with small companies. Get the bigger ones, preferably ones 
> which make campaign donations. Put it on official paper too with a 
> letterhead - call it Alliance of European IT companies against 
> Software Patents - ask if they'd like to become a signatory. Do not 
> mention even once free software or Linux or even Unix.

I'm not sure what you mean by capaign donations. I believe corporate
lobbying is not so direct in Europe
> Well if there's lots of calls for a whole multitude of changes, 
> they'll suspend the motion and call for a EU commission to 
> investigate matters. You'd need to be ready to get as many of your 

I think this is not a possible action for the EP. Maybe you mean 
that they'll reject the diretive. 

> people in there as possible because you can be sure the opposition 
> will. Getting famous people like Linus to volunteer is excellent, if 
> their advisors have heard the name it works well.

I haven't heard much brilliant language from Linus on software patents.
We already enjoyed very good speakers at the EP conference

> - this was actually an 
> email I wrote to someone and wasn't I bloody surprised when it 
> appeared on Contractor UK with someone else's name!!! :)
I understand your surprise. It looks more like a letter than an article. 
Btw I don't but the poor inventor gets rich excuse for patents. I doubt
this was ever the intention for proposing patents. It was more a macroeconomical 
kind of arguments and to encourage innovation and publication of solutions 
by large players. The patent system was designed burdensome and expensive
for individual inventors, because they were not a priority. But I'm not 
a historian, I don't really know

I don't understand the sentence
- what's being patented IS the software, so that argument is pointless - it's already written.

You don't have to program anything to get a software patent. 
There is no source code, not much implementation detail, just the definition 
of the problem and the most general way to solve it. In fact there are litigation 
companies that never build software, only patent it or but patents. 

In fact this is one of the important problems. Software is very expensive to 
produce, and high quality software much more so. But patents "protect" 
the cheapest part, which is the concept. Since software is made in a formal
computing model, you already know what can be done before the start. The realy 
expensive part is implementation, and that is what copyright protects. Patents
erode the protection offerred by copyright, so they endanger the most 
expensive part and "protect" the cheapest.
I can't see how the Copyright directive from 1991 is the reason swpats 
are illegal in Europe. The European Patent Convention is the reason. 

I also dont understand all this concern about the third world. The 
WIPO is trying to ensure the third world copies our broken patent systems 
and is thus more under control of the triumvirate USA-EU-Japan. 

> Hmm. I think patents are totally artificial anyway as is most of 
> copyright and indeed IP. They should only exist or apply if it's more 
> beneficial to the industry and society if they do. That would be my 
> sole criteria.

This is a principle, not a criteria. You must give precise guidelines
to the civil servants to tell them what patents to grant and what not.
Otherwise (if you just legislate patents will only be available when
it's more beneficial to the industry and society) you surrender
economic policy to civil servants instead of elected politicians.
> I'd personally just ban all patenting of ideas. Techniques is 
> something else, but IMHO it's all artificial and as such should be 
> arbitrarily balanced.
I don't understand.
> The main point of the patent office is to vet for frivolous 
> applications. Now I don't know if they can't get the funding for 
> proper experts or whatever, but the EPO seems to have a lot of crappy 
> patents and I'm not even an expert in most of the fields. Pushing the 
> responsibility for validation onto the court system is a very 
> inefficient and wasteful method of paying lots of lawyers to argue 
> about technicalities in completely unproductive matters, so as you 
> might guess I'm not IP happy despite my alternative business model.

Surely putting the decision to the courts is silly. But just spending 
a lot in hiring the best experts to fiscalize what the expoerts in the 
business do, instead of just using top experts to create is not very 
productive either. EPO quality is a problem, but the biggest problem 
is subject matter. The brightest examiner will have to grant silly 
patents if the guidelines says anything is patentable. Otherwise 
the applicants attorney will appeal and win. You can't leave it to 
arbitrariety (= examiners talent).

> I'm not good with acceptable alternatives - I tend to think in 
> radical "replace the entire system" modes :(

Replace the entire system is an alternative. The problem is not 
that is radical, the problem is that any alternative needs a good
definition and a good justification.  Anyway, if you are not good 
at alternatives, just use ours, they aren't patented :)

Xavi Drudis Ferran
xdrudis at

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