[FSFE PR][EN] Software patents detrimental to European power supply business

Free Software Foundation Europe press at fsfeurope.org
Mon Dec 6 10:15:10 CET 2004

    Software patents detrimental to European power supply business    

  December 6th, 2004

  Dear Mr Haider,

  the European Union is on the way to introduce a legal basis for
  software patents [1] in Europe. While you may consider this a topic
  outside your daily business, it is likely to become the cause of
  serious security problems to European power supplies.

  The dependence of reliable power supplies on reliable software has
  steadily increased over the years and ever since the US-East Coast
  blackout of 2003 it has become a topic of public interest. Huge
  problems are often caused by small mistakes and thanks to networking
  effects, they can spread like wildfire, affecting huge areas.

  One of the ideas to counter such developments was recently proposed
  [2] by Adilson Enio Motter, guest scientist at the Max Planck
  Institute [3] for Complex Systems Physics: His proposal is to stop the
  problem spreading by selective shutdown of a few critical crosspoints.

  If the software patent directive is adopted in its current form, it
  would be possible to apply for a software patent on the so-called
  "control of cascade" -- regardless of whether the patentee has
  implemented a solution to the idea or not. Anyone who has a solution
  to implement this idea needs the permission of the patent holder,
  which the patent holder is able to give or refuse.

  There will be many other examples for ideas that fundamentally affect
  the security of software systems controlling the European power supply
  and software in general -- as the methods to make computer systems
  secure are limited. It is impossible to avoid software patents
  completely as computer programs contain thousands of ideas, all of
  which should be patentable according to the directive, you will most
  likely only learn of the particular patents once your solutions have
  entered the production environment and your legal department receives
  the bill.

  Not only does this contradict the draft directive on the security of
  our electricity supplies, which was passed by the European Council on
  Monday 22nd of November 2004, it would make each of the European power
  supply companies vulnerable to legal attacks by specialised software
  patent companies and law-firms seeking to maximise their revenue.
  This seems detrimental to Europe as a region and to the European power
  supply business, which is why we would like to ask for your support in
  our struggle against software patents in Europe. Please do not
  hesitate to contact us should you need further information.

  With kind regards,

  Georg Greve
  Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE)


[1] http://fsfeurope.org/projects/swpat/swpat.en.html
[2] http://scitation.aip.org/getabs/servlet/GetabsServlet?prog=normal&id=PRLTAO000093000009098701000001&idtype=cvips&gifs=Yes
[3] http://www.mpipks-dresden.mpg.de/
[4] http://www.euractiv.com/Article?tcmuri=tcm:29-131147-16&type=LinksDossier

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