Opera and MySQL battle against software patents

Five European IT companies have weighed in against the software patent directive

A group of medium-sized European IT companies have launched a joint effort to try and persuade the European Parliament's to make changes to the proposed software patent directive, ahead of the second reading plenary vote on Wednesday 6 July.

Opera, MySQL, 1&1 Internet, CAS Software, CSB-System, GMX, and Materna are being aided in their effort by campaigner Florian Mueller, founder of an anti-patent Web site, who has agreed to return to the fray after giving up his battle against the directive in March to pursue other interests.

"It's an intense fight here," said Mueller, speaking from Brussels. "There are 40 to 50 lobbyists from large corporations and their associated industries. It’s difficult to counter such intense pressure — it's chaos!"

Last week, the European Parliament's legal affairs committee narrowly voted in favour of the computer-implemented inventions directive, which many say will allow software patents.

Next week will be the second reading of the directive, and the five companies want the Parliament to amend the text of the directive to close a number of loopholes that critics say were created last week.

According to Mueller, the five companies joined the battle because allowing pure software patents would benefit their large corporate adversaries. The software patent directive passing the second reading without amendments, "would be disastrous for small companies," said Mueller. "The present text has several loopholes which allow for software patents. We want amendments which would be helpful for companies that are sued for a patent. Essentially we want to turn an article full of loopholes into a valuable tool."

This effort is supported by venture investment group Benchmark Capital and Danny Rimer, a partner at Index Ventures. Venture capitalists are supporting the effort because they get most return from their investment in growth companies and it is these growth companies that will suffer if the directive is passed without amendments, according to Mueller.

When asked why he had decided to rejoin the battle against the directive, Mueller said "It’s such a narrow majority — every vote will count. When I left I could not foresee what would happen. I’ve come back for this particular situation."