[FSFE PR][EN] Software Patents in Europe - Indication of an action week to European Media

Joachim Jakobs jj at pr-profi.com
Tue May 4 17:06:17 CEST 2004

Dear Collegues,
Dear Madam,
Dear Sir,

in September last year the European Parliament affirmed not to legalize
software patents in Europe. Less than seven months later, in cooperation
with some national governments and the commission, the Irish Presidency
of the European Union has drafted a working paper in favour of software
patents. The paper will most likely be voted upon May 17th, 2004.

Not only does such behaviour distort legislation and trample on
democracy, it also risks considerable negative consequences for
economy and society.

The Free Software Foundation Europe [1] and the Foundation for a Free
Informational Infrastructure [2] endorse an action week from May 10th
to 14th to inform citizens, economy and politics about the harmful
consequences of this initiative. In the course of this action week
demonstrations and panel discussions in many European cities [3] will
take place. These actions are accompanied by an open letter to the
citizens of Europe. To inform you ex ante we have enclosed the joint
position of FSFE and FFII concerning software patents (see below).

We would appreciate it if you could inform your readers on this issue
and have an open discussion with us and others. You will receive the
open letter by the beginning of next week. If you need further
assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us.

With kind regards,

Joachim Jakobs

Joachim Jakobs Tel: 0179/6919565
In der Roede 24 jj at pr-profi.com
64367 Mühltal www.pr-profi.com

Common Position of the Free Software Foundation Europe e.V. and the
Foundation for a Free Informational Infrastructure e.V.

According to some within the EU council, software should also be subject
to patentability. This includes protection beyond the source code of an
application, which is covered in Copyright law, but also the result.
Many different implementations with similar results are therefore
threatened by a single patent.

Through this mechanism, an arbitrarily chosen random number of ideas can
be turned into a monopolized area. A solution to the problem is not even
required: A vague idea is sufficient!

The online bookstore Amazon.com filed a patent in Europe to cover its
"one-click-technology" allowing single click purchases for registered
users. The well-known "progress bar", usually used during installation
routines, has been granted long before.

In a letter [4] to the EU commission in November last year the CEOs of
Alcatel, Ericsson, Nokia and Siemens took a position vehemently in
favour of software patents. This seems to imply that at least large
companies benefit from software patents: Smaller competitors can be
driven out of business easily and the big players can do mutual
"cross-licensing": "If you let me use 1000 of your patents, you get
permission to use 1000 of mine."

This impression is far from reality, though. Internet protocol telephony
for example is a complex mesh of different compression methods - or in
other words: different patented ideas. According to professor Henning
Schulzrinne of Columbia University (New York), internet telephony has no
chance in markets threatened by software patents. He only sees the
option to wait 17 years until the patents have expired [5].

The aformentioned CEOs do a disservice to their companies: software
patents cost them access to a market that market researcher Gartner
expects to have a turnover of 3.6 billion Euro until 2007 [6].

How is it possible that four global players follow such a short-sighted
policy? The answer is simple: they trust "false friends" - their patent
departments, patent attorneys, patent specialists in professional
organisations. Munich alone has 700 representatives of this profession
[7] + [8] - no wonder that the chamber of patent attorneys is in favour
software patents in a 12 page position [9].

The nuisance of the patent system in the software field has been
scientifically explored by MIT, the Massachusetts Institue of
Technology. Its researchers discovered in a 2003 study [10] that
companies holding more software patents invest less into research and

What are the consequences for government, society and economy as a whole
if this legislation is not resisted? We punish and discourage
creativity. We put societal development into the hands of bureaucrats
who bully us for their own benefit at every turn.

Czech President Vaclav Klaus said in the German Newspaper “Handelsblatt”
few days ago: "The EU is not about freedom and openness, but about
bureaucratization, regulation and harmonization". Let us not prove him

[1] www.fsfeurope.org <http://www.fsfeurope.org>
[2] www.ffii.org <http://www.ffii.org>
[3] http://kwiki.ffii.org/SwpDemo0405En
[4] http://swpat.ffii.org/news/03/telcos1107/index.en.html
[5] http://swpat.ffii.org/patente/wirkungen/voip/index.de.html


[7] http://www.patentanwaltskammer.de/cgi-bin/find_map.cgi?key=80
[8] http://www.patentanwaltskammer.de/cgi-bin/find_map.cgi?key=81
[9] http://www.patentanwaltskammer.de/aktuell/040318_6_03_Zur_Sache_3.pdf
[10] http://swpat.ffii.org/papers/bessenhunt03/index.en.html

Joachim Jakobs Tel: 0179/6919565
In der Roede 24 jj at pr-profi.com
64367 Mühltal www.pr-profi.com

More information about the Press-release mailing list