[FSFE PR][EN] Free Software Foundation Europe writes an Open Letter to the Fraunhofer Gesellschaft (FhG) because of software patents

President of Free Software Foundation Europe press at fsfeurope.org
Tue Jul 6 17:17:23 CEST 2004

Dear Professor Bullinger,

"Research should be able to earn its money also on the market!" - say
politicians – so we, the Free Software Foundation Europe, understand
when researchers use creative ways to get a better income. But even
researchers should take care not to bite the hand that feeds them. This 
is real, especially with the actual software patent discussion:

The Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft is well known for its patent of the MP3
audio-compression standard. Another compression procedure, named Ogg 
is considered to be of higher technological value by experts. If software
patents should indeed be introduced in Europe, the Ogg Vorbis developers
could be confronted with license claims at will by the Fraunhofer IIS [1],
although they took care not to infringe the MP3 patent. The FhG might be
able to get rid of an unpleasant competitor or would at least better its
income substantially. We will avoid a discussion of the ethical questions
related to such a behaviour.

But it certainly is not very useful from the economical point of view if a
good idea blocks an even better one: this is also shown by Dr. Daniel 
of the chair of Economy and Economical Theory at the University of 
Dr. Probst stated in a hearing of the German parliament regarding software
patents in June 2001 [2]:

"The part of SME (small and medium-sized enterprises) would sink and a
concentrational process would begin. Based on network effects, a few large
enterprises would gain a dominant place on the market. As far as allowed by
competition regulations, they would agree on cross-licensing their patent
portfolios and would hinder market entry of new companies with blocking
patents. The research intensity in the branch would stagnate or fall." 
would also be a significant decrease of Free Software solutions.

Personally I regret every single point of the above. There are many more
deficiencies, some of them have been shown to the new German president,
Professor Köhler, in an open letter in June [3]. A particular important 
for you as head of the Fraunhofer Gesellschaft should certainly be the 
"The part of SME would sink...", especially regarding the fact that,
according to the German government [4], the FhG is taking 60 percent of its
research orders from SMEs.

Another point to take into consideration would be that big companies 
might move
the research to the eastern parts of the European Union, because they can
find in Poland and other newly entered EU countries perfectly competent
software developers at a fraction of actual costs.

For Europe's greatest research society in the field of "information and
communication technology", this could mean not only the disappearance of
their project partners but, even worse, the dying of the companies which 
wanted to live of. "Sawdust is falling since quite a certain time, the
splintering of the branch is imminent."

Kind Regards

Georg Greve

[1] http://www.iis.fraunhofer.de/
[2] http://swpat.ffii.org/events/2001/bundestag/probst/index.de.html
[4] http://www.bmbf.de/pub/inno-masterplan.pdf

Georg C. F. Greve <greve at fsfeurope.org>
Free Software Foundation Europe (http://fsfeurope.org)
GNU Business Network (http://mailman.gnubiz.org)
Brave GNU World (http://brave-gnu-world.org)

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.


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