High noon for software patent directive

High noon for software patent directive

Summary: A final decision on the European Computer Implemented Inventions Directive is imminent

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TOPICS: Government UK
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Campaigners from both sides of the software patent debate have stepped up their efforts before the European Parliament votes on the Computer Implemented Inventions Directive on Wednesday.

MEPs will vote on a number of amendments to the directive in a plenary session of the Parliament. Many of these amendments will limit the extent to which software can be patented, it is believed.

One of the most hotly contested issues over the last few weeks has been the impact of the directive on SMEs.

Pro-patent organisation EICTA claimed on Monday that the directive does not favour large companies.

"It is a myth to think that this directive favours large companies over small. EICTA represents 10,000 small, medium and large companies in Europe, with over two million employees. These companies, working together, form an ecosystem of innovation that is indispensable to the EU's main objective of creating jobs and growth," Rudy Provoost, the president of EICTA said in a statement.

But, numerous trade organisations dispute this claim. UEAPME, an association that represents more than 11 million companies employing around 50 million people, is against the directive in its current form. It was critical of the European Parliament legal affairs committee's decision to reject some key amendments to the directive.

"The failure to clearly remove software from the scope of the directive is a setback for small businesses throughout Europe. UEAPME is now calling on the European Parliament to reverse yesterday's decision at plenary session next month and send a strong message that an EU software patent is not an option," said Hans-Werner Müller, UEAPME Secretary General, in a statement late last month.

The Confederation of European Associations of Small and Medium Enterprises (CEA-PME), which represents more than 500,000 businesses, again opposes the directive. To put its point of view across, it has sent a fax to all MEPs warning that the future of the SME-driven sector of Europe's economy is at stake, the Foundation for a Free Information Infrastucture reported on Wednesday.

A statement on the CEA-PME Web site says: "The proposal of the software patent directive limits competitiveness within the software industry in favour of large international corporations."

The FFII has set up a Web site where companies can express their views against patents. So far, over 1,800 companies, with more than 30,000 employees between them and a total annual turnover of more than €3bn, have signed up to this Web site.

ZDNet UK recently examined some of the problems that SMEs face when filing and enforcing patents.

Topic: Government UK

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8 comments
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  • For me the final outcome of this will be a clear indication if the EU, where it matters, is either democraticly or rather commercially lobbied in nature.
    anonymous
  • It's all bollocks anyway. I'm still going to get the bus the morning after. It's a bit like the G8 thing, I'm in favour of it but it wont really change anything.
    anonymous
  • I love patents. It forms the basis of innovation. Pity to all who go against it.
    anonymous
  • "I love patents. It forms the basis of innovation. Pity to all who go against it."

    Explain how stopping someone using a certain software method in a new and imaginative way encourages innovation.
    anonymous
  • "Explain how stopping someone using a certain software method in a new and imaginative way encourages innovation."

    For one thing, the software that is protected will have a continuous development by the original authors. No other third party will mangle the code and produce bad software. Second, new patentable ideas will be created from scarcity of familiar programming methods. This can be viewed as evolution.
    anonymous
  • To Anonymous Patent Manager.

    "For one thing, the software that is protected will have a continuous development by the original authors."

    Unlikely, why risk burning R&D budget if no-one else can compete. Revenue earned thanks to software patents is better spend on legal services targeted to try keeping anyone smaller then you small and anyone bigger then you of your chest. Or, as we've seen plenty of examples for already, to find and drag customers and competitors labeled as patent violators to court and see how much money can be made that way.
    So in short, software patents are more likely to lead to stagnation then towards innovation since a company can only do so much with their budget and thus tends to pursue the most sure and rewarding way to spend that budget.

    "No other third party will mangle the code and produce bad software."

    Mangled code and bad software are only purchased from companies with great and/or well funded PR departments (in the land of the blind one eye is king). The average business however will have to resort to deliver quality goods that actually deliver on their promises given their PR budget.

    "Second, new patentable ideas will be created from scarcity of familiar programming methods. This can be viewed as evolution."

    Patentable ideas are for the most part creative creations of laywers talk with a lot of funding behind them. Take for example the one-click patent. There are likely thousands of ways, good and bad, to program a one-click functionality. But a single well worded patent would defeat them all. In other words, a few patent officials that are obviously clueless about the finer arts of software development would be more then capable to ruin plenty of developer's days, weeks and years as well as the businesses that depend on them.
    Or in another example. There's a limited number of programming methods that are capable of reaching the same functionality but in robust, reliabel, usuable and good performing ways. So it wouldn't take long before all good methods for a certain functionality are patented after which developers working for companies with smaller budgets would be forced to resort to less ideal ways thus resorting in lesser quality of their software products overall and thus the beginning of the end for that company in question.

    Concerning your evolution remark. Sudden limitation to previously plentyfull available resources usually leads to mass extinction. People, and certainly markets, are not that adaptive. Especially in cases where some have already stock-piled the remaining resources in well defended bunkers and most others are left empty handed to fight over crumbles with one hand tied to their back.
    anonymous
  • Corporations may leave 1 or 2 lines of unoptimized code from time to time because they defend their ideas simultaneously from theft. Patents greatly help them by giving them protection and to produce better code. After protecting their ideas, they can in turn fine tune patented code and create better products.

    I don't believe that there will be shortage of ideas because with scarcity, quoting from my previous post, will force coders to create better patentable algorithms.

    Extinction only comes if you want it. If something is patented, create a better one and patent it also. That's the start of an idea evolution.
    anonymous
  • To Anonymous Patent Manager. It's great that you believe that everything will turn out right. In the mean time we've seen software patents getting approved that are highly questionable. Thing is that if things don't turn out quite as you picture them then it's people like me, and not you, who are expected to 'creatively' clean up the mess. And quite frankly, so far you've only demonstrated an unrealistic view towards what makes the software industry as a whole tick.
    anonymous