[FSFE PR][EN] FSFE welcomes German government on its way towards a clear position in the discussion around software patents

press at fsfeurope.org press at fsfeurope.org
Sat May 15 13:19:13 CEST 2004


May 14th, 2004

                    FSFE welcomes German government on its way towards 
            a clear position in the discussion around software patents

 The Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) "welcomes the commitment
 of the Federal Government of Germany to freedom from software patents
 as being of extreme importance for innovation in Europe", Georg
 Greve, president of FSFE, comments in a press release. "Clearly the
 opinion of the Federal Government regarding the information society
 is shifting towards a position which is clear and close to the
 position of its citizens. The FSFE will support the German government
 on this journey to its utmost."

 The ongoing learning process is particularly notable to the FSFE,
 because for a long time during the preparatory deliberations of the
 working group of the Council of Ministers, the Federal Republic
 belonged to the hawks.

 These hawks wanted, for example, so-called "requirements of program"
 to be accepted. If these were to be introduced, a patent would be
 infringed by the mere existence of a program, not just by its

 "This would threaten all people who develop software -- whether the
 software is intended for use in study, leisure or business -- exactly
 what the patent industry wants", explains Greve, and points out that,
 "it is contradictory to use Free Software in so many public
 institutions on the one hand and to threaten them with software
 patents on the other hand."

 The patent supporters want to monopolize interfaces and file formats.
 The consequence of this would be that import and export features and
 even simple printing features might be offered by the holder of the
 monopoly only.

 With this shift in direction, the suggestions the FSFE has been
 making for years are starting to pay off. A number of administration
 officials understand software patents to be a serious thread to the
 information society; now the Ministry of Justice seems to subscribe
 to this view as well.

 Last Wednesday Elmar Hucko, head of a government department in the
 Ministry of Justice, announced at an event in Berlin that the Federal
 Government would vote against the controversial software patent
 directive of the Council of Ministers of the European Union.  At the
 same time, according to the online magazine "heise.de", Hucko
 criticised the current practice in the European Patent Office (EPO)
 of granting patents in the field of "computer-implemented
 inventions". "Not all of these these patents should have been
 granted," he emphasised.

 "After this we are confident that even the Ministry of Justice will
 accept sooner or later that software can be patentable under no
 circumstances -- not even when it is supposed to control machines,"
 says the FSFE in a press release.

 In Greve's opinion, the Federal Government should, given its change
 in stance, now argue against the other members of the EC, "in order
 to avoid a wrong decision". It should then convince its colleagues to
 exclude software patents for the future.

 Then it might be possible to offer a draft directive to the European
 Parliament by the end of the year, "benefiting freedom and ensuring
 continued innovation and growth" which restrains the patent industry
 from bludgeoning software companies.

About the Free Software Foundation Europe

 The Free Software Foundation Europe (FSF Europe) is a charitable
 non-governmental organization dedicated to all aspects of Free
 Software in Europe. Access to software determines who may participate
 in a digital society. Therefore the freedoms to use, copy, modify and
 redistribute software - as described in the Free Software definition
 - allow equal participation in the information age. Creating
 awareness for these issues, securing Free Software politically and
 legally, and giving people freedom by supporting development of Free
 Software are central issues of the FSF Europe, which was founded in
 2001 as the European sister organization of the Free Software
 Foundation in the United States.



        Georg C. F. Greve   <greve at fsfeurope.org>
        phone: +49-40-23809080
        fax:   +49-40-23809081

   Further contact information available at 
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