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The Euro Software Patent Chamber of Horrors

Spotlight on IP lunacy

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The idiocies of the European Patent Office are to be highlighted in a unique exhibition opening today. Between 11am and 12:30 in Munich, the European Software Patent Horror Gallery will open to the public, hosted by FSF founder Richard M Stallman, only this time wearing his League of Programming Freedom hat.

The show is part of an effort to show how the ownership of fundamental concepts such as multi-tasking, filename conversion and even abstract processes that have nothing to do with software - dynamic pricing, for example - have been granted to individuals or corporations.

For example, the concept of a "Computer system and method for performing multiple tasks," filed by six engineers from IBM Germany in 1993 is currently in the works. That leaves the Apple Macintosh and Win9x pretty safe, we guess. But no, really - we're not making this up, and it's deadly serious for anyone writing software in Europe.

The EPO, up till now a peripheral quango, is pushing to have its edicts enshrined in binding European law at this week's European Patent Convention in Munich.

As Graham Lea pointed out here recently, this runs counter to EU policy on freedom of information, and fundamentally alters the balance of power towards the multinationals and away from free software. This has implications for the exercise of that power, for example in anti-trust cases.

In a statement, FFII-watcher Arnim Rupp says: "The American mega-corporations, to whom most of these illegally granted patents belong, are still waiting for a change in the European Patent Convention. If the Diplomatic Conference sets the wrong signal in Munich [this] week, Germany will hopefully abide by the words of the Ministry of Justice and refuse to ratify the new European Patent Convention. The issue at stake now is how to keep 30000 mines from detonating and how to give back basic legal security to European IT enterprises and citizens."

If it passes, national patent delegations will only be able to overrule decision on 2/3 majority votes.

The Gallery will be unveiled in the Helios at Munich's Forum der Technik today. ®

Related Links

FFII home page
Software Patents - the League for Programming Freedom
Eurolinux petition

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