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Protecting Information Innovation against the Abuse of the Patent System

For the last few years the European Patent Office has, contrary to the letter and spirit of the existing law, granted about 30000 patents on computer-implementable rules of organisation and calculation (programs for computers). Now the European patent movement wants to change the law so as to legalise this practise and remove all barriers to patentability. Programmers are to lose their freedom of expression and the control over their copyrighted work. Citizens are to be barred from independently developping their preferred forms of communication. As a compensation for this "intellectual expropriation", we are offered ... less innovation, less competition, less good software.

-> European Commission wants
Unlimited Patentability!
Directive Draft by BSA

The patent system's history has been convincingly described as a victorious movement of lawyers against economists. As long as patentable inventions were confined to the realm of applied natural science and only industrially manufactured material objects were monopolised, the negative effects of these monopolies were not widely felt and still seemed, at first glance, justifiable in view of macro-economic advantages such as stimulation of R&D. During the last decades however the patent system has been expanding into "fields of technology", in which it provokes only tearful laughter from specialists in addition to the ever more devastating criticism from economists. Yet patent inflation is continuing at full pace year by year, due to the uncontrolled legislative power of an congregation of believers led by patent offices, patent lawyers and patent departments of various corporations and governments. The victims of the patent landgrab are still relatively dispersed, unaware and unorganised. Fairly visible damage is incurred by small and medium software companies, independent programmers, free/opensource software and even patent jurisprudence, whose recent theoretical disorientation is perhaps most adequately described by means of satire.

[----- SOFTWARE CREATOR AFTER A THEFT OF INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY _____]The Software Patent Working Group of the FFII has a lot to do. We have created a database of European software patents, reviewed relevant articles from specialised libraries, collected printable documents and more into a software patent archive and prepared them into a documentation CD. Moreover we are writing letters, operating mailing lists, participating in conferences and creating some documentation of our own. In order to find the most current texts, you may find our news page a useful starting point. And don't forget to sign the Eurolinux Petition for a Software Patent Free Europe!


FFII News about Software Patents

*FFII News about Software Patents

Latest Developments concerning the limits of patentability in Munich, Karlsruhe, Berlin, Brussels etc and the FFII's activities for the protection of information innovation against the abuse of the patent system

Software Patents: Questions, Analyses, Proposals

*Software Patents: Questions, Analyses, Proposals

What is the effect of patents on the economy in general and on software in particular? Why do software patents tend to be so trivial? What exactly have the rules of patentability in Europe been and how did they change? Under what constraints is the patent system moving? What are our choices? With this collection of articles, members and friends of the FFII workgroup on software patents try to give answers.

European Software Patent Horror Gallery

*European Software Patent Horror Gallery

A database of the monopolies on programming problems, which the European Patent Office has granted against the letter and spirit of the existing laws, and about which it is unsufficiently informing the public, delivering only chunks of graphical data hidden behind input masks. The FFII software patent workgroup is trying to single out the software patents, make them better accessible and show their effects on software development.

Computing and Patent Law: Review of Articles

*Computing and Patent Law: Review of Articles

An overview of articles about software patents and related questions which were published in paper form.

Conferences on Software Patenting

*Conferences on Software Patenting

The FFII Workgroup for the Protection of Digital Innovation against Software Patents frequently participates in conferences and exhibitions. We have presented our case at trade fairs as well as hearings of governments, parliaments and parties and academic conferences. We are trying to document these activities.

Actors on the Software Patents Stage

*Actors on the Software Patents Stage

a home page for each institution and person of the software patentability debate

FFII Software Patents Archive: References to External Documents

*FFII Software Patents Archive: References to External Documents

A collection of references to documents, such as patents, analyses and news articles. We try to make it available also on CD.

Letters and Appeals

*Letters and Appeals

The FFII has written to various politicians to ask them for help against the unlawful and harmful decisions of the patent movement. These letters include private and public letters as well as reusable letter templates.

FFII Software Patent Work Group

*FFII Software Patent Work Group

This workgroup is financially autonomous. The FFII makes sure that its activity conforms to the statutory public-interest goals of the FFII.

Sponsors of the FFII Software Patent Working Group

*Sponsors of the FFII Software Patent Working Group

The research, documentation and information work of the FFII concerning software patents is financially supported by some software companies and related institutions.

Specially Recommended Reading

->CEC & BSA 2002-02-20: proposal to make all useful ideas patentable
The European Commission (CEC) proposes to legalise the granting of patents on computer programs as such in Europe and wholesale adoption of the american practise of unlimited patentability. "But wait a minute, the CEC doesn't say that in its press release!" you may think. Quite right! To find out what they are really saying, you need to read the proposal itself. But be careful, it is written in an esoteric Newspeak from the European Patent Office (EPO), in which normal words often mean quite the opposite of what you would expect. Also you may get stuck in a long and confusing advocacy preface, which mixes EPO slang with belief statements about the importance of patents and proprietary software, implicitely suggesting some kind of connection between the two. This text disregards the opinions of virtually all respected software developpers and economists, citing as its only source of information about the software reality two unpublished studies from BSA & friends (alliance for copyright enforcement dominated by Microsoft and other large US companies) about the importance of proprietary software. These studies do not even deal with patents! The advocacy text and the proposal itself were apparently drafted on behalf of the CEC by an employee of BSA. Below we cite the complete proposal, adding proofs for BSA's role as well as an analysis of the content, based on a tabular comparison of the BSA and CEC versions with a debugged version based on the European Patent Convention (EPC) and related doctrines as found in the EPO examination guidelines of 1978 and the caselaw of the time. This EPC version help you to appreciate the clarity and wisdom of the patentability rules in the currently valid law, which the CEC's patent lawyer friends have worked hard to deform during the last few years.
->Quotations on the question of the patentability of rules of organisation and calculation
Salient quotations from law texts, economic analyses, political documents as well as statements by programmers, politicians and other parties interested in the debate about software patents.
->Patent Jurisprudence on a Slippery Slope -- the price for dismantling the concept of technical invention
So far computer programs and other rules of organisation and calculation are not patentable inventions according to European law. This doesn't mean that a patentable manufacturing process may not be controlled by software. However the European Patent Office and some national courts have gradually blurred the formerly sharp boundary between material and immaterial innovation, thus risking to break the whole system and plunge it into a quagmire of arbitrariness, legal insecurity and dysfunctionality. This article offers an introduction and an overview of relevant research literature.
->European Consultation on the Patentability of Computer-Implementable Rules of Organisation and Calculation (= Programs for Computers)
On 2000-10-19 the European Commission's Industrial Property Unit published a position paper which tries to describe a legal reasoning similar to that which the European Patent Office has during recent years been using to justify its practise of granting software patents against the letter and spirit of the written law, and called on companies and industry associations to comment on this reasoning. The consultation was evidently conceived as a mobilisation exercise for patent departments of major corporations and associations. The consultation paper itself stated the viewpoint of the European Patent Office and asked questions that could only be reasonably answered by patent lawyers. Moreover, it was accompanied by an "independent study", carried out under the order of the EC IndProp Unit by a well known patent movement think-tank, which basically stated the same viewpoint. Patent law experts of various associations and corporations responded, mostly by applauding the paper and explaining that patents are needed to stimulate innovation and to protect the interests of small and medium-size companies. However there were also quite a few associations, companies and more than 1000 individuals, mostly programmers, who expressed their opposition to the extension of patentability to the realm of software, business methods, intellectual methods and other immaterial products and processes. The EC IndProp Unit later failed to adequately publish the consultation results and moderate a discussion. Therefore we are doing this, and you can help us.
->Berlin 2001-06-21: Software Patents Hearing in the Federal Parliament
8 experts from the areas of law, informatics and economics will answer questions from MPs, based on written responses to the questions of the expert hearing as specified below. The interested public is also called to present its answers to any subset of these questions in writing. This expert hearing is only a beginning. If you want to make a submission, you may send it to the FFII. We will try to help you both to write them well and to assure maximum exposure and diffusion by publication on our site, so as to promote a competent public dialogue on this subject.
->Software Patents: News Sources and Discussion Rounds
As the number of undeserved patents on program logics, business practises and all kinds of trivialities soars to hundreds of thousands and the dire consequences are gradually being felt, the activity of various mailing lists and newsletters gradually intensifies. Here we try to keep track of the most important ones.
->Software Patents For the Eye
Rather than just refute the boring propaganda of the patent lobby, we need to use more artistic means to express the feelings which the Horror Gallery of European software patents arouses. Here you find a collection of pictures, pamphlets, posters and ideas as well as a possibility to order articles for distribution at trade fairs and other occasions.


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