An organisation that opposes software patents has awarded Siemens its highest 'honour', for a patent granting the company sole rights over business mobile data usage.
Nosoftwarepatents, a German campaign group, gave Siemens the Software Patent of the Year 2006 award on Tuesday.
The patent, number EP0836787, is entitled: "Method of transmitting data packets according to a packet data service in a cellular mobile radio network provided for voice and data-transmission". It was granted by the European Patent Office in 2004, eight years after Siemens applied. Nosoftwarepatents had already named it Software Patent of July earlier this year.
The granting of the patent technically means that Siemens can claim a royalty every time data packets are exchanged between a mobile client and a server via a cellular network. This would encompass everything from using a mobile phone as a modem to surfing the mobile internet, sending email from a phone or even using SMS.
Professor Joachim Henkel of the Technical University Munich said the patent did not meet the terms of the European Patent Convention, which states in Article 56 that a patentable invention must be "not obvious to a person skilled in the art".
"It is obvious for an expert to replicate the logic of electronic circuits by using software. Thus, for this type of 'invention' no patents should be granted. I also do not consider patent EP0836787 grantable since it merely applies a process common for landline networks to cellular networks," Henkel said on Tuesday.
"The approval of the software patent contradicts the European Patent Convention from 1973 which defines software as not patentable," said campaign manager Harald Talarczyk. "Our campaign refutes the argument that this and other granted European software patents are exceptions."
Talarczyk estimates that the European Patent Office has granted more than 25,000 software patents.
Siemens comfortably won top prize in the awards, relegating Lucent Technologies to second place with their patent, EP1056268, which claimed rights to the transfer of emails with attachments.
The award was sponsored by 1&1 Internet, GMX, MySQL, Red Hat, CAS and Jedox.