Irish developers protest against patents

Irish developers protest against patents

Summary: Has Ireland's close relationship with IT giants such as Microsoft influenced its approach to software patents?

TOPICS: Government UK

Three open source developer groups based in Ireland have written to Irish MEPs to urge them to oppose the software patent directive.

The Irish Linux Users' Group, the Irish Free Software Organisation and Irish KDE developers on Tuesday sent a briefing document to all Irish MEPs to explain why software must not be patentable.

Irish politicians have had an instrumental role in pushing through the directive. The Irish government had presidency of the EU during the first half of 2004 when the draft directive was voted on by the EU Council. Irish politician Charlie McCreevy is the EU's Commissioner for Internal Markets, which is the European Commission body that is responsible for the directive.

The European Commission recently rejected the European Parliament's request to rewrite the software patent directive, a decision that was met with fury by anti-patent campaigners.

KDE Ireland criticised the European Commission on its Web site for pushing through the directive despite the fact that the voting weights of the EU members have changed since the initial vote, which means that the EU Council members that voted for the directive no longer constituted a majority vote.

In the document sent to the MEPs the open source groups claim that the "vast bulk" of the companies holding speculative software and business-method patents at the European Patent Office are US and Japanese companies.

"The European Commission — where Charlie McCreevy, who was appointed as opposed to elected, sits — is using procedural dodges to get around the fact that this directive no longer has a qualified majority, and has pushed it through against the twice-expressed will of Parliament (where our elected MEPs reside)," KDE developers said in a statement. "It's a disaster for the European software industry; we're effectively handing the whole thing on a plate to a handful of US companies."

Anti-patent campaigner Florian Mueller said in an earlier interview that Ireland is dependent on the taxes of pro-patent multinationals such as Microsoft and therefore has a vested interest in the outcome of the patent directive.

"Statistics show that about 50 percent of all corporation taxes paid in Ireland are paid by the Irish subsidiaries of multinationals that use Ireland as their gateway to the EU," said Mueller. "The Irish economy is hugely dependent upon the likes of Microsoft."

Just last week Microsoft announced a new R&D centre that will create 100 jobs in Ireland, in addition to the 1,200 people it already employs in country.

But others disagree that there is a conflict of interest. Laurence Vandewalle, a political adviser for the Green Party, which is against the patent directive, disagreed with Mueller.

"In short, we do think that Ireland is a country which has a particular interest in this issue (but it is not the only one)," said Vandewalle. "But it has never been proven so far that there would be a personal conflict of interest of Mr McCreevy regarding the directive," said Vandewalle.

Topic: Government UK

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  • I wish I had a crystal ball or could tell the future, I wish I could just say "it's gonna be alright, the bill won't pass", but I really can't tell.

    The whole of Europe don't want this, its just a few people being paid to do this. I feel like a member of Al Quieda, wouldn't it be easier to just remove the man, remove the problem.

    After all its hardly a fine display of democracy at the top end of the EU, come to that what will a YES vote to the constitution mean?
  • Conflict of interest or not. There have been enough incidents to ask serious questions to certain, political, people. And such questions haven't been ask yet by the right, powerfull enough, persons. And they certainly haven't been answered in any satisfying way by anyone so far.

    As for the "it has not been proven". As far as I know it hasn't been investigated either so it's a bit early to talk about proven or disproven.
  • Irish and others, very simple solution.


  • Back in 1991, Bill said, in an internal memo: 'If people had understood how patents would be granted when most of today's ideas were invented and had taken out patents, the industry would be at a complete standstill today...A future start-up with no patents of its own will be forced to pay whatever price the giants choose to impose.'

    this was before software patents were allowe, in 1994....

    If there had been softwarepatents in 1978, there had not been Microsoft
  • that makes very little sense
  • What does not make sense, Mr ceo (previous poster)?

    I believe what Mr Daxx was saying, is that when Microsoft was a small company, there were no software patents allowed at that time. This permitted Microsoft to innovate and grow, building on the ideas of others, whilst respecting copyright protection of intellectual property.

    Then, some years later in 1991, when Microsoft was a larger company, its co-founder Bill Gates recognised that software patents would be a threat to Microsoft if it did not have any. This is evidenced by this now famous quotation, which came from an internal strategy memo of Mr Gates to his staff. Subsequent to this, Microsoft began to acquire software patents, when they were legalised (1994). Microsoft now (2005) owns many software patents, including some issued in Europe by the EPO.

    Most people would agree that Bill Gates is very clever, so it is interesting to read this candid quote - which holds as true now as it did then.

    The point is that an innovative software-producing small company could now be blocked from growing to become like Microsoft, by software patents alone. Patents favor the big, incumbent companies, who by now hold large portfolios of patents. Small companies don't stand a chance.

    Even if a small company does acqire a software patent themselves, it is really only of interest to them if they do not intend to produce any software - in other words if they become a pure patent company and their business model is based on suing and collecting royalties. That hardly promotes innovation! If the small company does produce software themselves, it is likely that in doing so, they will infringe upon someone elses patent(s) and be required to cross-licence. If they only have 1 patent, and Microsoft has 5000, who do you think will win?

    This is just ONE of the reasons why software patents in Europe are a bad idea. There are many others, but I just wanted to explain this one, as you didn't understand when it was expressed earlier.