[FSFE PR][EN] Software patents detrimental to European power supply
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  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
 by Adilson Enio Motter, guest scientist at the Max Planck
Institute  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
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,
Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE)
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