Letter I have sent all Irish & British MEP's

Alan McMahon pam at indicia.co.uk
Sat Jul 31 14:05:21 UTC 2004

Do you happen to have an up-to-date email list for UK and Irish MEP's?
I've just emailed all UKMEP's, but some are starting to bounce! 

Also, when is the date of the vote, and, is there anything I might say
beyond my rather  cobbled letter of today (attached)

Alan McMahon
London W4

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Dear Mr Van Orden,

The Bloomberg news item below prompted me to email you on the issue of European software patents. I am a civil engineer, with no connection with the computer industry, but I have become  persuaded that what the article describes will become a central strategy of the largest players in the commercial software market, with Microsoft at the fore. 

The patent bank they are scrambling to build amounts to an arsenal of spoilers, which will have the ability to stop competitors' software development in its tracks. That is bad for European information technology, which lags that of the US and Japan, and ultimately will place a universal drag on innovation, from which Europe, if it recognises these patents, will suffer inordinately.  It is essential that we maintain conditions that enable us to  develop our own software identities, to exchange and develop ideas freely, outside of a litigious and uncertain framework, and provide alternatives to the kind of US corporate lock-in that exists on most computer desktops today.  The US has made the mistake of succumbing to the software patent lobby, and will in the long run find innovation inhibited, with the only beneficiaries being the legal profession and patent agents. We must not make the same mistake.

I was interested to note that Munich's move towards an open-source  platform has been cast in doubt by the spectre of software patents. The concern, as I understand it, is that their IT infrastructure could be placed in jeopardy by one of these patents, obscure and unknown, being sprung on them. This is an interesting early effect of the prospect of the introduction of software patents, but I believe that much worse is to come. 

There is to my mind something inherently wrong with the concept of allowing  ideas to be monopolised; that we  can't express and share an idea because someone had it before us seems contrary to human nature, and is intuitively a restriction on human creative activity. It seems to remove an essential purpose; the challenge of adopting, adapting and improving ideas.  And, of course, ideas are two-a-penny, so the likes of Microsoft, with its huge financial resources, can build at minimal expenses a vast library of patents ready to deploy against competitive challenge. This must be wrong.

You may well already be up on the subject, but in case you aren't, I recommend you visit http://swpat.ffii.org/, and I  urge you to please consider carefully before voting on this issue.

Yours sincerely,

Alan McMahon
London W4

REDMOND: Microsoft patents software in strategy to combat Linux

Bloomberg News

Microsoft Corp. Chairman Bill Gates said the company will apply for more than 3,000 patents this year, an increase of 50 percent, to help fend off the Linux operating system. 

Microsoft filed for about 2,000 patents in the year that ended June 30, Gates said Thursday at the company's annual analyst meeting in Redmond.

Microsoft is speeding up efforts to own the rights to more technologies. Some companies worry they'll be sued for patent infringement for the software they use. Microsoft executives say the protections offered by patents gives their operating system a competitive edge.

Linux is distributed without charge, and no one owns the underlying programming code.

(Published 12:54AM, July 30th, 2004)

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